HILO — More than a quarter of all Hawaii County registered voters had already voted by Monday morning, and election officials hope that robust participation continues today, Election Day.
So do Hawaii Democrats.
Democrats from across the state gathered at Mooheau bandstand Monday evening for their traditional pre-election Grand Rally, where several hundred of the party faithful ate chili, enjoyed entertainment and heard speeches from federal, state and local candidates.
The state’s Republican Party doesn’t hold a similar event.
The dominant Democratic Party includes all four of Hawaii’s congressional delegation, all but five members of the 76-member state Legislature and four of the past five governors.
The state’s two U.S. senators and two House members were on hand Monday evening, bringing grim news of divisiveness around the nation and pointing to the state of Hawaii, and Hawaii Island in particular, as an oasis of aloha in a troubled world. Hawaii Democratic Party Chairwoman Kealii Lopez drove that point home.
“Hawaii Island exemplifies that aloha spirit,” Lopez said.
Hawaii County Democratic Party Chairwoman Margaret Wille urged the audience to look ahead to 2020, to change the direction of the country and especially the presidency.
“How can we be the aloha voice that changes that path,” Wille said, leading the crowd into a chant of “Imua. Get on board for 2020.”
Mayor Harry Kim, who began his political career as a Republican and later switched to the Democratic Party, said he never was active in party politics, but he’s now sold on the Democratic Party.
“I love being a Democrat,” Kim said. “I love what we stand for.”
Some 27 percent of Hawaii County’s 115,436 registered voters had voted at early election sites or by mail, and 62 percent of the 39,646 mailed ballots had been returned, said Elections Administrator Pat Nakamoto on Monday morning. Officials expect more mail ballots to be returned by the 6 p.m. deadline today.
Statewide, 23.8 percent of the state’s 756,751 registered voters had voted early, said Nedielyn Bueno, of the state Office of Elections.
The last comparable election, the 2014 general election, had a final voter turnout of 52.3 percent statewide and 47.7 percent in Hawaii County.
Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Anyone in line at 6 p.m. will be allowed to vote, Bueno said.
“Before heading to the polls, we encourage voters to find out where their polling place is,” Bueno said. “They can call our office at 453-VOTE or visit our website at elections.hawaii.gov and utilize the polling place locator.”
Would-be voters who need to register to vote can do so at their polling place before voting. To qualify, they must be a U.S. citizen, Hawaii resident and at least 18 years old. Voters registering at their polling place may experience increased wait times as they will be required to complete a registration affidavit form and await confirmation that they are at the correct polling place.
Voters should bring with them some form of I.D., copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government-issued document that shows their name and address.
“We would like to encourage all qualified residents to come out and vote on Election Day. Voting is a constitutional right and privilege that we have.,” Nakamoto said. “Voting allows us the opportunity to have a say in electing officials that will represent our views on issues that we care about. This is an important way that we can participate in our federal, state and county government. “