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Record voter turnout jams voting sites across the islands

  • Video by Leila Fujimori /

    Oahu voters waited in a long line at the Honolulu Hale on Election Day to cast their ballots.

                                A line of people waiting to cast their ballots was seen snaking outside of Honolulu Hale Tuesday morning.


    A line of people waiting to cast their ballots was seen snaking outside of Honolulu Hale Tuesday morning.

So many island voters waited to vote at the last minute on Election Day that no county’s voter service center was able to close on time as Hawaii set a new record for total votes cast.

State election officials had hoped to release the first election results shortly after each county’s voting sites were scheduled to close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

But hundreds of people remained in line to vote across every county beyond the scheduled Tuesday night deadline, said Nedielyn Bueno, spokeswoman for the state Office of Elections.

“All were open after 7 p.m.” Bueno said.

County officials are responsible for running elections on their islands.

The delays at the county voter service centers meant that state officials could not issue the first election results until well after 11 p.m.

The huge lines of voters were the result of a record turnout that saw 579,165 ballots cast, the most ever by far.

Out of a record 832,466 registered voters, Hawaii saw 69.6% of voters actually cast ballots.

The last biggest number of votes cast occurred in 2008 when Native Son Barack Obama successfully won his first term. Island voters cast 456,064 ballots in that year’s General Election. Only one of Hawaii’s Primary Elections ever saw more than 300,000 votes.

This year, the record number of votes appeared to be driven by a variety of factors including the U.S. presidential race, concerns about the economy, COVID-19, the selection of Honolulu’s new mayor and the ease of Hawaii’s first large-scale effort at mail-in voting this year.

Following a relatively smooth August Primary Election, mail-in voting continued to be a huge success Tuesday night.

The overwhelming majority of votes came from an astounding number of 550,423 mail-in ballots, representing 66.1% of all votes cast across the state.

By comparison, only 28,742 voters — or 3.5% — cast ballots in person.

There was a 10-day period in which people could still register and vote, even on Election Day.

But Bueno said many people were still signing up to vote Tuesday night.

Many voters who stood in line during the day at Honolulu Hale Tuesday, such as Deborah Norden, 53, of Kahala, said they prefer the tradition of voting in person on Election Day, instead of mailing in a ballot.

“I prefer voting in person,” Norden told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

Other voters said they worried about placing their ballots in the mail and many dropped off their mail-in ballots into special boxes at both Kapolei Hale and Honolulu Hale — while others preferred voting in person.

But enough people across Hawaii followed Norden hours later to stand in line that every county voter service center saw long lines and had to delay the closing of their voting sites.

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