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Little fanfare this year

The candidate filing deadline for the primary election Aug. 8 and the general election Nov. 4 came and went Tuesday without the usual fanfare.

The final slate of candidates would normally be the lead story on most media outlets in Hawaii but that was not the case this year. Blame that on the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it makes sense. Many residents are struggling to put food on the table and pay the rent and mortgage, having been furloughed or lost their jobs. Struggling stay alive and safe from the virus are the focus of most families and individuals.

While the tourist economy likely will not be back — fully at least — by the primary election Aug. 8, there are very important decisions for voters to make about who they want to lead us during this unprecedented time.

Seven of the nine council seats are contested, and there is an open Lanai residency seat with Riki Hokama being term limited. Council Members Alice Lee and Yuki Lei Sugimura are unopposed and have effectively won another two-year term, but who claims the other seven seats will determine the leadership and direction of the council.

State Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran’s seat and all Maui County state House seats are up for grabs.

There also will be a county manager charter amendment, aimed at putting professional managers in charge of the county and limiting the reach of politics in appointments. It is a major change in county government structure and affects the powers and role of the mayor and his or her relationship with the council.

On top of all of that, Aug. 8 will be the first all-mail ballot election in Hawaii.

“Polling places are now a thing of the past,” County Clerk Kathy Kaohu told The Maui News. “We will not be having our 34 precinct locations in our school cafeterias and community centers that older voters are familiar with.”

There will be a few voter service centers open 10 days before the primary and general elections on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. They will help voters who may have questions, have spoiled their ballots or wish to hand-deliver.

Only ballots in hand on Election Day will be counted.

For more information, call the County Clerk’s Office at 270-7749 or go to the website elections.hawaii.gov/2020-proclamation/.

Maui County has not been known as a high turnout county and a non-mayoral election year generally brings out the fewest voters. But, there are important decisions to be made. Please fill out your ballots and mail or hand them in.

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