Hawaii: What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This November

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist
Grace Han/Thrillist

Deciding whether to vote in-person or by mail for the upcoming 2020 General Election on November 3 should be the least of your voting worries if you live in Hawaii. In 2020, Hawaii is one of the few states that opted to vote by mail, which means there will be no traditional polling stations on Election Day and, sadly, no #HiVoted souvenir sticker to display on your shirt. If you’re a resident of the State of Hawaii and a registered voter, your mailbox now becomes your ballot box.  

This year, the Hawaii mail-in voting process has become so easy it would be shameful if you missed a deadline. Here we'll walk you through the simplified version of registering to vote and casting your ballot, so you can make your voice heard on Election Day.

What's the deadline to register to vote in Hawaii?

The deadline to register to vote in Hawaii for the upcoming General Election is October 5

How to register to vote in Hawaii

If you use Hawaii’s online voter registration system, you must have a current Hawaii driver's license or state ID to log in. To guarantee you receive your mail ballot packet, you must be accurately registered. Make sure you update your address online if you moved and recently changed your name or mailing address.

If you choose to register or update your registration by mail, you need to download, print, and complete a Hawaii Voter Registration Application. You can also download applications in Ilocano and Chinese and or collect an application in person from your local US post office, a state library, or at a Satellite City Hall near you. Submit your completed application in person or send it by mail to your County Elections Division postmarked before October 5.

If this is your first time voting in Hawaii and you want to mail in your application form, you must provide proof of identification. Proof of identification includes a copy of your current and valid photo identification or a recent utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or another government document that displays your name and address. You will be asked to provide your full social security number. Be sure to read the instructions carefully and fill out the form completely.

Remember to mail or drop off your completed voter registration application to your local county election official no later than October 5. You can check your registration status here.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in Hawaii?

Yes! Hawaii voters do not have to wait until Election Day to vote.

Early in-person voters may walk-in to any early walk-in location in their county to cast their vote before Election Day. The early voting period runs from October 20 to November 2, but dates and hours vary based on where you live. For information on the times and locations, call your local county election official

Can I vote by mail?

Yes! In 2020, all of Hawaii can conveniently vote by mail without an excuse. If you registered to vote before October 5, you should expect to receive a ballot at your designated mailing address. 

How to vote by mail in Hawaii

All registered voters in Hawaii will automatically receive a ballot in the mail by October 16. If you registered and do not receive a ballot in the mail, made a mistake, or changed your mind while voting, you can request a replacement ballot. Voting errors cannot be fixed using correction tape or crossing out an error. You would need to contact your local county election official to request a replacement.   

Your mail ballot packet will include your ballot, a ballot secrecy sleeve, and a return envelope. You should review the instructions and look over the candidates on both sides, then use a black or blue pen to mark your choices. Re-fold your voted ballot and place it in the ballot secrecy sleeve, read the affirmation statement, and sign the return envelope before you mail or return your ballot to your local county election official. You have to sign the return envelope for your ballot to be counted. Once your Country Elections Division validates your signature, your ballot will be considered counted. You can return your voted ballot to a voting service center or deposit box.

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot?

Yes! You can check the status of your mail ballot beginning October 1.

One of three different statuses should appear:

  • Mail Ballot Pack Created: Your packet is being prepared, and you should receive it by October 16. If you don’t see this status, you should check that your registration is current and request a replacement from your local county election official.  
  • Ballot Received: Your return envelope has been delivered to your County Elections Division, and they are processing it for signature validation.
  • Ballot Validated: Your signature has been validated, and your ballot will be counted.  

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

Even with Hawaii's all-mail voting law, you may vote in-person by visiting any voter service center in your county. Remember, the early voting period runs from October 20 to November 2, but dates and hours vary based on where you live. Voter service centers are open 10 days through Election Day for in-person voting, same-day registration, and accessible voting.

If you choose to vote in person at your local county election official office, do it in accordance with CDC health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Remember to wear your mask and practice social distancing guidelines.

Here's what the CDC recommends voters do to protect themselves and other at the polls on Election Day, per its election safety page:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again.
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the day.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it).
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.

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Wendy Awai-Dakroub is a Hawaii-based writer, restaurateur, franchise business consultant and founder of kid-friendly food and travel blog.