Election season is upon us. For many people this could mean anything from campaign signs plastering your neighborhood, lively discussions on your social media (to put it nicely), waving or honking to the candidates and their supporters on the side of the road, and some interesting radio ads.
For those reading this article, I hope that election season means you are educating yourself the best you can (we all have busy lives) and triple checking that you are registered to vote!
As a new mother myself, I know it can be difficult. During this recent primary cycle I went to the County Clerk’s office in Wailuku with newborn baby in tow for early Walk in Voting. With all that it is being a new mom; still figuring out car seat, nursing, and diaper madness, I arrived at 4:03pm. Walk in voting closes at 4:00pm! It was frustrating. But, I rallied it together just a few days later and went to my local polling place on Election Day. The polls were not busy at all (unfortunately). The volunteers were incredibly helpful and it took all but five minutes to do my civic duty AND I ran into my high school librarian, neighbor, high school pal, another sweet friend with her son, and even my dad. It was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone after having been (willingly) sequestered in the house in new-mom-landia.
But, why bother?
Because 352 votes can change everything, that’s why.
Voter turnout in Hawai’i is dismal. Voter turnout for primary elections is even more discouraging. For example, District 12 (Upcountry) had the opportunity to vote for a brilliant young woman, mother, and community Aloha ‘Āina organizer: Tiare Lawrence. She garnered a whopping 44.2% of the vote, very impressive for a new challenger. Her opponent, the incumbent, while a congenial fellow, has a voting record that repeatedly shows he is not as concerned about the environmental well being of Maui County. Do you know how few votes away we were? Just 352. Your vote does matter!
Because I have been an advocate and environmental lobbyist for some years, I tend to get a lot of questions come election time. Here are answers to some of the more common voting questions that I hope can be helpful for you too!
REGISTERING TO VOTE
Q: How do I know if I am registered to vote?
A: You can verify your voter registration at https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ by providing a Hawaii Driver’s License or State ID, and Social Security Number. You may also call 808-453-VOTE (8683) or call toll free at (800) 442-VOTE (8683).
Q: How do I register to vote?
A: You can register online at https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ or by submitting a Wikiwiki Voter Registration & Permanent Absentee Application (available online or at your local post office) by mail or in-person to the Maui County Clerk’s Office: 200 South High Street, Room 708, Wailuku, Hawaii 96793. The last day to register to vote online or by mail is Monday, October 10th.
Q: Do I have to register before each election?
A: Nope! Isn’t that great?! Re-registration is only required if you have moved or changed your legal name.
Q: Is there same day registration?
A: In Hawai’i we do not have same day registration on Election Day itself. We do, however, have Late Registration, which is available once Walk-in voting commences on October 25th and runs until 4:00pm on November 5th. If you aren’t registered via mail by October 10th, you are able to walk into the County Clerk’s office, register AND vote all in the same day.
ABSENTEE BALLOTS aka MAIL BALLOTS
Q: How can I sign up for absentee/mail ballots?
A: By filling out the Wikiwiki Voter Registration and Permanent Absentee Application available online at https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ or at your local post office.
Requests for a mail ballot must be received by your Clerk’s Office seven (7) days before the election. This year for the General Election that date is: November 1, 2016
Q: When do absentee ballots need to be received by?
A: Mail ballots must be received by close of polls at 6:00 pm on Election Day, November 8th, to your County Clerk’s Office or at any polling place within your county.
EARLY WALK IN VOTING
Q: Where does walk in voting happen?
A: On Maui, walk in voting takes place at the County Clerk’s Office: 200 South High Street (the County Building) Room 708 (7th floor) Wailuku between the hours of 8:00am – 4:00pm. From Tuesday, October 25 until Saturday, November 5.
For those that are headed to the polls, remember that Election Day is Tuesday, November 8th and polling places will be open from 7am to 6pm. Almost all this information is available at elections.hawaii.gov. If you can’t find what you need, don’t hesitate to call the Office of Elections at 808-453-VOTE (8683) or call toll free at (800) 442-VOTE (8683).
It’s a hard earned privilege, especially for women, to be a part of this process. Embrace it.
Image Credit: Equality Hawaii