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How to Vote and What Happens After That

By Catherine Cluett Pactol | Editor

The deadline to vote in the general election is quickly approaching next Tuesday, Nov. 8. There are several ways you can make your voice count in this important opportunity to choose candidates who carry your vision for the future. There are four Molokai candidates on the ballot. 

If you’re already registered to vote and you received a ballot in the mail, you can return it by U.S. Postal Service up until Nov. 8. This is a departure from what the Dispatch previously reported, but Kathy Kaohu, county clerk whose office handles elections processing in Maui County, said an agreement with the Postal Service allows ballots mailed between now and Election Day to be processed separately from the rest of the mail. 

“We have an arrangement with the Postal Service as election partners, that as of Nov. 3, anything that gets dropped into the postal stream on Molokai and Lanai will be held by the post office and then our election officials will go to post office daily and collect those ballots that are being held, and bring them back to the Voter Service Center at Mitchell Pauole Center,” said Kaohu. 

This arrangement, permitted by law to ensure ballots mailed after the normal postmark deadline are still processed by election officials, allows Molokai and Lanai ballots to circumnavigate the Honolulu USPS office before safely reaching an election center, according to Kaohu. 

You can also drop your completed ballot directly at Molokai’s Voter Service Center at Mitchell Pauole Center. It is open now through Nov. 7, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Kaohu said this is the preferred method, to deliver your ballot directly to election officials. 

If you haven’t yet registered to vote, there’s still time. You can register and vote same-day at the Voter Service Center. However, Kaohu reminded residents that they have to be prepared to fill out their ballot at the same time that they register. 

“They won’t get a blank ballot and go home and study it — they have to be ready to vote in the Voter Service Center,” she said. 

She also cautioned voters to remember to sign the ballot envelope or their vote won’t be counted. 

“I think one of the most important things in the reason for ballots not counting is voters forget to sign the outside envelope, and we get quite a bit number returned envelopes without signatures,” said Kaohu. “We do attempt to contact voters and turn it around, the law allows for a five-day ‘cure period’ [after Election Day].”

On Nov. 8, once all Voter Service Centers close at 7 p.m., Molokai and Lanai officials spring into action. Molokai ballots are not tallied on Molokai and must be flown to Maui that night by charter plane. 

“For both Molokai and Lanai, once 7 p.m. has passed, both service centers start putting together election results — they’re all secured, sealed — and sent by charter plane to Maui. All counting is done on Maui,” said Kaohu.

From now until Election Day, Molokai votes that were mailed in early are processed and scanned for signatures on Maui, but no tallying takes place. Kaohu said no results will be counted until all Voter Service Centers statewide have been reported closed on Nov. 8, then the state Office of Elections will release the first round of results. 

Molokai results are often among the later results released that night or the next morning because so many of Molokai’s ballots arrive by plane. 

“The question is always, where’s the charter flights [from Molokai and Lanai]?” Kaohu said of election officials on Election Day night. 

Kaohu said so far, there’s been a slow return of ballots from voters in Maui County compared to 2020. 

“Numbers were kind of stellar from 2020 and the anticipation was we would see the same in 2022 but that’s not the case so far,” she said. 2020 was the first year that Hawaii switched to a mail-only voting system. 

“Hopefully voters will activate and meet us halfway,” she said of election officials doing everything they can to help voters. “Don’t delay, vote today — that’s part of our rights, to elect our representation.”

Residents can visit the Voter Service Center at Mitchell Pauole Center with any questions, which Kaohu said is operated by “seasoned election officials from Molokai.”


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