The Votes Are In

As Hawai‘i braces for its inaugural vote-by-mail election, chief election officer Scott Nago drops by to explain the new protocol in making one’s voice heard.

Voting is expected to be both safe and easy for residents as they prepare for this year’s primary (Aug. 8) and general (Nov. 3) elections.

With traditional polling sites no longer a part of the landscape (the 2019 state Legislature passed a bill implementing a vote-by-mail procedure), registered voters may simply cast their ballots from the friendly confines of their homes without the fear of waiting in long lines and coming into contact with the coronavirus.

Two years ago, only two out of five people in Hawai‘i voted at each polling place. Thus, streamlining the process while encouraging more voters to participate in their constitutional duty became the aim of state officials.

“In the early 2000s and late 1990s, more people went to polling places,” explains chief election officer Scott Nago. “But, since 2014, more people have voted absentee or early walk-in.”

Ballot packets for the primary election were slated to hit mailboxes July 21. PHOTO COURTESY STATE OFFICE OF ELECTIONS

Those who registered to vote by the July 9 primary deadline should be receiving ballot packets in the mail around July 21, and must send in their ballots by Aug. 8.

“We recommend if you’re going to mail it, mail it at least five days prior,” Nago says.

Voters can also drop off their ballots at designated places of deposit (see “Places of Deposit” on page 5).

If ballots are accidentally destroyed or damaged, or if help is needed with same-day voter registration, residents can head to the voter service center at Pi‘ikoi Building’s Conference Room A/B (see “Voter Service Center” on page 5).

Volunteers sort ballots during a prior election season.

“We prefer they mail it in, though,” says Nago.

Whether putting it in the mail or placing it in a deposit box, all return envelopes must be signed to validate the signature from one’s voter registration card.

Because Hawai‘i has a single-party primary, voters need to choose one political party and only vote for candidates in that political party.

“We call it political preference,” explains Nago, who has been with the elections office since he finished college in the late ’90s.

In his position, he and his office are responsible for state and federal elections, and work with the counties to get the job done.

“There’s a divide between the state and county,” he says, noting the little-known fact about the Hawai‘i election process.

The state is responsible for counting ballots and voter education, while counties are responsible for voter registration, mailing and receiving of ballots, as well as voter service centers and places of deposit.

“We definitely work together,” he adds.

The state Capitol was equipped for ballot sorting and counting during 2018’s election. PHOTOS COURTESY STATE OFFICE OF ELECTIONS

After the primary, the process starts all over again for the general election. Once Nov. 3 comes and goes, that will mark the end of a milestone year for Nago and the state Office of Elections.

“There’s no better feeling than the day after the general election,” Nago adds. “It’s like a feeling of accomplishment.”

Nago and his fellow state and county officials are looking forward to a successful election, and encourage everyone to cast their vote.

“Voting is important,” adds Nago. “A lot of people before us worked to get us that right to vote. It’s not something we should take lightly or for granted.”

For more on how to register or update the registration status, visit or, or call 453-VOTE (8683).

Places of Deposit

There are also places of deposit for voters to drop off their completed ballot packet for the primary and general elections. Below is a list of all deposit locations. Visit for a full schedule of operating hours.

Hanalei Fire Station
5-4390 Kūhio Hwy.

Hanapēpē Fire Station
1-3787 Kaumuali‘i Hwy

Kālaheo Fire Station
2-2480 Kaumuali‘i Hwy

Kapa‘a Fire Station
4-757 Kūhio Hwy.

Kāpule Building Lobby
4444 Rice St.

Elections Division
Office of the County Clerk
4386 Rice St., Room 101

In addition, Pi‘ikoi Building’s Conference Room A/B (4444 Rice St.) also serves as place of deposit. For the primary election, it’s open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays July 27-Aug. 7, as well as 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Aug. 8. For the general election, it’s open 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays Oct. 20-Nov. 2, as well as 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 3.

Voter Service Center

Need help with your ballot or same-day voter registration? Head to Kaua‘i’s voter service center at Pi‘ikoi Building’s Conference Room A/B.

Primary election
July 27-Aug. 7 (Mondays-Saturdays)
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Aug. 8
7 a.m.-7 p.m.

General election
Oct. 20-Nov. 2 (Mondays-Saturdays)
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Nov. 3
7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Visit to learn more.