“Vote By Mail” pilot bill heads to final floor vote

The bill falls short of what advocates originally hoped for, but they're celebrating a step forward nonetheless and asking Governor Ige to sign it.

News Report
Hawaii Independent Staff

Illustration originally commissioned by Common Cause Hawaii and used with permission | Will Caron

HB1401 HD1, SD1, CD1, would create a Vote By Mail (VBM) pilot program across Kauaʻi County for all elections beginning with the 2020 cycle. Today, the bill was passed out of conference committee and will head to a final floor vote. After that, it will advance to Governor Ige for approval.

The original intent of this measure was to establish statewide mail-in voting. Despite the modifications, however, voting rights advocates hail the change and are hopeful that initiating this pilot program is the first step in implementing VBM throughout Hawaii in the future.

“Vote By Mail will provide more convenience for young people, members of our local military, homebound seniors and voters in rural areas who may not be able to visit the polls on Election Day,” said Janet Mason, Legislative Committee Co-Chair for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii. These citizens deserve ready access to the vote.”

She continued, “We acknowledge the Judiciary and Money Committees in both chambers who provided leadership for this reform and look forward to implementing statewide Vote By Mail following a successful Kauaʻi launch.”

States using a universal Vote By Mail system confirm an increase in voter participation and lower election administration expenses. Here at home, the Office of Elections predicts a cost savings of $750,000 per election cycle when Vote By Mail is implemented statewide. Under provisions of the bill voting in person will be possible at Voter Service Centers.

“We applaud legislators for recognizing Vote By Mail as a viable solution to restore balance to our democracy,” said Common Cause Hawaii Executive Director Corie Tanida. “With this bill the state is taking the first step toward reducing barriers to voting. But the legislature is far from the finish line when it comes to election modernizations. We will not relax our efforts until common sense reforms like Automatic Voter Registration and Vote By Mail are available to all eligible voters across Hawaiʻi.”