For dozens of poll workers, Election Day began yesterday afternoon when they began carting voting booths into school cafeterias and recreation centers to turn them into voting sites.
For more than 145,000 voters, "election day" happened in the preceding two weeks, when they voted early at walk-in sites or by mail-in ballot.
But for tens of thousands of Hawaii voters, Election Day remains the time-honored tradition of casting a ballot at one of the state’s 242 polling places, then settling in to watch the returns roll in.
Polls open at 7 a.m., and voters will be admitted until 6 p.m. (See box on how to find your polling place, view your ballot online and other tips.)
The state Office of Elections has hired the 3,500 polling place workers needed statewide, spokesman Rex Quidilla said.
"The office has done fairly well recruiting volunteers," he said. "We’ve got what we need. The key is to make sure (chairpersons) and officials are there to direct the operation."
This is the first year voters are facing a reduced number of voting sites, from 339 in 2008 to 242 this year. The change was made because of the budget crunch.
The growth of absentee voting appears to be continuing, with more than 145,000 people casting ballots through the weekend by mail or at early voting walk-in sites at Honolulu Hale and at 10 other sites around the state. Mail-in ballots will be accepted until 6 p.m. today.
» State Office of Elections: 453-8683.
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Already, more people have voted absentee than the 129,980 people who did so in the Sept. 18 primary.
Kauai County Clerk Peter Nakamura thinks the trend is here to stay. On primary election day, 8,042 people voted on Kauai, compared with the 9,164 ballots that were cast in early walk-in voting or by mail-in ballot.
Nakamura credits the new permanent absentee registration program for the increase.
"It’s been trending towards more people doing absentee," he said.
Statewide, 44.4 percent of voters cast absentee ballots in the 2010 Hawaii primary, compared with 9 percent in the 1992 primary.
The four county clerks reported tallies yesterday for walk-in early voting, which ended Saturday, and mail-in ballots received through Friday or Saturday:
» Honolulu: 22,272 people voted at Oahu’s three walk-in sites. Also, 82,391 mail-in ballots were received as of Friday out of 104,806 ballots requested.
» Hawaii County: 10,251 walk-in voters and 8,067 mail-in ballots received by Friday
» Maui County: 3,691 walk-in voters and 9,253 mail-in ballots received by Saturday
» Kauai County: 2,928 walk-in voters and 7,145 mail-in ballots received by Saturday