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Hawaii voters urged to return general election ballots early amid postal warnings

  • DIANE LEE / DLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                People practicing social distancing waited in line, Aug. 6, to mail packages and letters at the downtown Honolulu post office on Merchant Street.

    DIANE LEE / DLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

    People practicing social distancing waited in line, Aug. 6, to mail packages and letters at the downtown Honolulu post office on Merchant Street.

State elections officials are urging Hawaii voters to get their mail-in ballots into the hands of the U.S. Postal Service at least a week ahead of the Nov. 3 general election in order for their votes to count after postal officials warned of potential delays this year.

In a letter dated July 31 and received Aug. 3, Thomas J. Marshall, general counsel and executive vice president of the U.S. Postal Service, wrote to Hawaii’s chief election officer, Scott Nago, that “the vast majority of your voters should have sufficient time to receive, complete, and return their ballots by the state’s deadlines. However certain deadlines regarding absentee ballots appear to be incongruous with the Postal Service’s delivery standards. This mismatch creates a risk that some ballots will not be returned by mail in time to be counted under your laws as we understand them.”

Marshall’s letter was a follow-up to one that he wrote on May 29.

Hawaii is among 45 other states and the District of Columbia being warned by the U.S. Postal Service that it cannot guarantee all ballots will arrive in time to be counted for the Nov. 3 general election, the Washington Post reported today.

The Post reported that the Postal Service is bracing for an unprecedented number of mail-in ballots as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Donald Trump’s new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former supply-chain CEO and a major political donor to Trump and other Republicans, has implemented cost-cutting measures to eliminate overtime pay and hold mail until the next day if distribution centers are running late, according to the Post.

This year’s Aug. 8 primary election in Hawaii showed a record number of 406,425 votes cast across the state. An astounding 99% of the votes were delivered by mail-in ballot.

Hawaii voters should expect their general election ballots 18 days ahead of the Nov. 3 election, or around Oct. 16.

“They can mail them back as soon as they choose to,” said Nedielyn Bueno, spokeswoman for the state Office of Elections. “But we’re going to inform voters based on the USPS reaction to mail in their ballots a week prior to the election. We also do let them know about drop-off boxes and voter service centers that remain open for voting up to 7 p.m. on election day.”

Would-be voters can even register and vote up through Nov. 3 at voter service centers across the state.

During the primary election, Honolulu Hale served as both a voter service center and a location to drop off ballots and both operations were busy through election day. Two potential voters showed up just after the close of voting with mail-in ballots but were too late as the drop-off boxes were closed.

Letter from USPS to Hawaii chief election officer by Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Scribd

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