Continuing a trend toward early voting, 46 percent of Hawaii residents responding to a Hawaii Poll said they intend to vote in next month’s primary election via absentee mail-in or absentee walk-in.
If the percentage holds true on Sept. 18 – when races for governor, Honolulu mayor, the Board of Education and county offices will be determined – it would mark a significant increase in absentee voting compared to the last primary election in 2008, when just under 40 percent of voters cast their votes early.
As of Friday there were a record 697,000 registered voters in the state (not including people who mailed in their registrations that day), including 469,000 on Oahu. In 2008, there were 667,647 registered voters statewide, with 450,522 on Oahu.
Of the registered voters on Oahu, 60,000 have requested absentee ballots and 3,000 have requested permanent absentee ballots. Voters have until Sept. 11 to request an absentee ballot.
The increase in absentee balloting comes as Hawaii residents are forced to deal with a significant decrease in polling places.
Elections officials closed 97 out of 339 polling places around the state for this year’s elections due to staffing shortages and budget cuts. Seventy-five of the closures are on Oahu.
According to the poll of 604 people, conducted this month for the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now by Ward Research Inc., 38 percent of respondents said they are likely to submit an absentee mail-in ballot and another 8 percent intend to vote via absentee walk-in prior to the Saturday election. Most respondents – 52 percent – still intend to vote in person, while 2 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.
Respondents on Oahu were more likely to vote via absentee mail-in than their counterparts on the neighbor islands (42 percent vs. 28 percent), but less likely to participate in absentee walk-in voting (6 percent vs. 12 percent).
Age, ethnicity and political affiliation appeared to be factors in who intended to cast an absentee ballot.
Respondents age 35 or younger were more likely to vote via absentee mail-in (43 percent) or absentee walk-in (9 percent) than those age 55 and older (38 percent and 7 percent, respectively).
Japanese (43 percent), Hawaiian (41 percent) and Caucasian (35 percent) respondents were more likely to opt for absentee mail-in voting than Filipino voters (26 percent). However, only 3 percent of Caucasian respondents said they would vote via absentee walk-in, compared with 8 percent to 10 percent for Japanese, Hawaiian and Filipino voters.
Early voting was also more popular among Republican voters. Of respondents who said they usually vote Republican, 45 percent intended to vote via absentee mail-in and 9 percent through absentee walk-in. Of those who usually vote for Democratic candidates, 34 percent said they would mail in their votes and 7 percent said they would do walk-in before Sept. 18. The respective percentages were 41 percent and 10 percent for those who typically vote independent.