Updated: 10/18/2020,12 p.m. There's a lot about 2020 that makes it a year to leave behind. But at least one important task remains: choosing the next president and filling a host of local offices, all with the power to impact our lives.
Hawaii has an advantage over many parts of the country. Last year, the state Legislature approved a move to statewide mail-in balloting. No one could have foreseen how fortuitous the decision would be.
While other states grappled with the complications of holding primary elections in the midst of a raging pandemic, Hawaii voters could vote safely from the comfort of their homes. And a record number did.
In the 2020 primary election, 51% of all registered voters cast ballots, reversing years of low participation. Elections officials expect an even higher turnout for the Nov. 3 general election.
Whether you're voting for the first time or have done this for decades, here are answers to the questions you may have about voting and ensuring your voice is heard.
• How do I register, update my address/information or check on my voter status?
The Oct. 5 deadline has passed to register online and have a mail-in ballot sent to you. You can register and vote in-person when voter service centers open starting on Oct. 20.
But if you need to update your voter information or check on your status, go to the state Office of Elections webpage. You'll need your Hawaii driver's license or Hawaii state I.D. and your Social Security number. If you don't have a state license or state I.D., there is a voter information form on the webpage you can fill out.
• Where can I go to register and vote in person?
Voter service centers are located in each county. Here's a map of their locations. They will operate from Oct. 20 to Nov. 3, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Sunday, and on Nov. 3, Election Day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• When will I get my mail ballot? Do I need to ask for one?
Mail ballots were automatically sent to all Hawaii registered voters starting Oct. 5.
Voters should receive their ballot packet by Oct. 16. But if you haven't, contact your county's elections offce. Find a list of contact information here.
While you are waiting for your ballot, you can view a sample ballot online based on your address.
• When should I mail in my ballot?
As early as you can. But state elections officials recommend that you mail your ballot by Oct. 27 at the latest so that it reaches county officials by the election deadline, 7 p.m., Nov. 3.
Remember, your ballot has to get to officials by then. If it doesn't, even if the envelope is postmarked before the deadline, it won't count.
The return envelope is postage paid.
• How do I use the mail-in ballot?
When you get your ballot packet, you'll get a ballot, a ballot secrecy sleeve and a return envelope.
Read the instructions and review the races and candidates on both sides of the ballot. When you've made your selections, fill in the box to the left of the candidate or the choice that you want. Completely darken the boxes with a blue or black pen.
Re-fold your ballot and slip it into the secrecy sleeve that will ensure privacy while your ballot is prepared for counting. A part of rhe ballot will stick out of the sleeve, but your choices will be hidden.
On the return envelope, read the affirmation statement and sign the envelope. Your ballot won't be counted if the envelope is not signed.
Mail in your ballot by Oct. 27 or drop it in a ballot deposit box or at a voter service center by 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Once election officials validate your signature, your ballot will be counted.
• What if I make a mistake on the ballot or need a replacement?
Call your county elections office and ask for a new ballot. Don't try to fix it with correction tape or by initialing a correction.
• What if I miss the Oct. 27 mail-in date. How can I turn in my ballot so it can be counted?
You can submit your ballot in person at any of the voter service centers or at a ballot deposit box on your island. Check the map here for locations. The last pickup of ballots from deposit boxes is 7 p.m. on Nov. 3.
• Can I track my ballot to be sure it's been received?
Yes, go to the state Office of Elections online ballot status page. You may need to wait a few days after you've turned in your ballot before it registers that your ballot has been received by county officials. You can also see whether a mail ballot packet has been created for you and check your address.
• What if I have more questions?