Question: With all the concerns surrounding the USPS and their timely delivery, there’s concern about mail-in ballots being delivered on time. There is a statement on social media that says if one puts a First-Class stamp on their ballot-return envelope, that USPS will have to treat that envelope as First-Class mail, not bulk mail, and that will ensure timely delivery. Is this correct?
Answer: No. “All mail-in ballots returned to election offices in the state of Hawaii are sent as postage-paid First-Class business reply mail, so a stamp isn’t necessary in order for those ballots to receive First-Class service,” said Duke Gonzales, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service in Honolulu.
Mail your voted ballot back promptly to ensure timely delivery (details on timelines below).
Hawaii is one of at least 17 states that pre-pays the postage on ballot-return envelopes, and one of five that conducts elections entirely by mail, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, which leads us to another common question.
Q: I got a postcard saying that if I planned to vote by mail I should request an absentee ballot at least 15 days before the General Election. Is that really necessary? Aren’t we all voting by mail?
A: No, it is not necessary. Yes, you are correct that registered voters in Hawaii don’t need to request an absentee ballot ahead of the General Election because the whole state is voting by mail, as was also the case for the August primary. Ballots will be mailed automatically to registered Hawaii voters.
The postcard you received from the U.S. Postal Service was a general one designed for a national audience, including in states where voting by mail is less common.
Q: When will we get our ballots?
A: Registered voters should receive their ballot by Oct. 16, according to Hawaii’s Office of Elections. Contact your County Clerk’s office if you don’t receive it by then.
Q: How late can we mail it back?
A: The last day to return your voted ballot by mail is Oct. 27, the elections office says. After that, you must drop it off at a voter service center or a ballot drop box, which will be placed throughout the state. To be counted, your voted ballot must be received by your County Clerk’s office no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day, which is Nov. 3.
For locations of voter service centers and ballot drop boxes, see elections.hawaii.gov/.
Q: How often will the ballot drop boxes be collected on Oahu?
A: Ballots will be collected from the drop boxes every day, said Doris Lam, a spokeswoman for Honolulu County’s elections division.
The drop boxes proved popular during the primary election, so four more will be added on Oahu, at Kailua District Park (Kailua Road Parking lot), Kalihi Valley District Park, Kanewai Community Park and Bill Balfour Jr. Waipahu District Park, the city announced. There also will be drop boxes at the Hawaii Kai Park and Ride, Honolulu Hale, Kaneohe District Park, Kahuku District Park, Kapolei Hale, Mililani Park and Ride, Neal S. Blaisdell Park and Waianae District Park, as there were for the primary.
The drop boxes won’t open until after the ballots are mailed out.
Q: Regarding Oahu’s COVID-19 rules, is there any projected date or condition for bars to reopen?
A: No, not yet. Even under Tier 4, the most relaxed of Honolulu County’s pandemic-era reopening framework, operation of bars and nightclubs is listed as “TBD” (to be determined). Bars and nightclubs are listed as closed in Tiers 1, 2 and 3. Oahu’s current status is Tier 1, and will be for at least the next three weeks, according to the website oneoahu.org, which spells out the island’s reopening strategy.
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