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HOOSER: Essential election information – dry but not horribly so

Today’s column is unabashedly targeting political junkies, candidates and those very special people who are helping candidates.

If you don’t fall into the above categories and prefer a more “rip and shred” political rant, visit my blog at https://garyhooser.blog and read “Fortunately there’s light at the end.”

But for today, it’s about the reality of a primary election in which voters start casting ballots in less than 100 days. That’s right, on or about the first week in July overseas absentee voters will get their ballots, and then shortly thereafter every voter in Hawai‘i will get their ballot in the mail as well.

So, for new candidates, I suggest you get moving, get those signs and banners up, and start knocking on doors.

I speak, of course, to the all important primary election which is a make-or-break moment for legislative candidates. For nonpartisan council races, the campaign for many continues on to the general election of Nov. 8.

Below is a calendar of key dates, election facts and historical data mixed together with just a light touch of opinion and friendly editorializing.

• May 5 — Legislative session ends; Voters and various advocacy organizations will begin preparing their “legislative scorecards” intended to inform voters about legislator actions and inactions. SuperPACs (political action committees) will likewise prepare their “hit pieces” in anticipation of attacking candidates they hope to defeat;

• June 7 — Candidate filing deadline; All serious candidates should have already filed long before this. Candidates filing on the final day will often be those playing games. One such game involves the long-time incumbent announcing on this date they will not be running for reelection. A family member, or favored friend, then shows up and files on this same day — and as a result runs unopposed;

• June 29 — Deadline for county clerks offices to mail ballots to overseas voters; This means ballots must be printed and prepared for mailing in 22 very short days, an ambitious timeline to say the least;

• July 26 — Voters start receiving the primary election mail ballot packet, which must be received at least 18 days prior to the election; It’s important to note that this date refers to the final day ballots must be received and NOT the date when most will actually be received.

In 2020, the primary election ballots were mailed out to voters on July 14. Consequently, some residents began casting their votes as early as July 17 and 18, a full three weeks prior to the Aug. 8 primary.

Of the 406,425 people who voted in the 2020 Hawai‘i primary election, 400,952 cast their vote using a mail-in ballot. While some preferred to drive their ballot to the elections office to drop it off in person, the majority voted from home via mail.

Pew Research analyzed national voting patterns for the 2020 general election and reported that 76% of mail-in ballot voters returned their ballots at least a week before Election Day.

Some 51% of all registered voters turned out to vote in the 2020 primary election.

Translation: 388,058 ballots were literally left on the table. They presumably simply sat on kitchen tables or in a pile of unopened mail until they were lost or thrown away.

It gets worse, or better if you’re a candidate seeking opportunity: 30% of eligible voters in Hawai‘i are not even registered, adding several hundred thousand more untapped votes on to that proverbial table.

Here are a few more important dates:

• Aug. 1 — Voter service centers open and same-day voter registration begins. Those voters who prefer to not mail in their ballots may personally drop off ballots and or vote in person. In addition, Hawai‘i first time voters may simply walk in to the voting center, register and then vote;

• Aug. 13 ­— Primary election day, the final day to vote; Candidates, here is where you go to find out more: https://elections.hawaii.gov/candidates/candidate-filing/. And, if you hope to be successful, I suggest you not dally further.

•••

Gary Hooser is the former vice-chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai‘i, and served eight years in the state Senate, where he was majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kaua‘i County Council, and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawai‘i Alliance for Progressive Action and is executive director of the Pono Hawai‘i Initiative.
Source: The Garden Island

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