On May 30th, the League sent letters to County Council Members Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4) and Matthew Kaneali‘i-Kleinfelder (District 5) advocating for additional Voting Service Centers on Hawai`i Island. The text of the letter is below, and PDFs of the letters to Council Member Kierkiewicz and Council Member Kaneali`i-Kleinfelder.
*** Text of the Letter ***
Aloha Council Member [Kierkiewicz/Kaneali`i-Kleinfelder],
The League of Women Voters of Hawai‘i County (LWV Hawai‘i County) understands that under the new Vote By Mail Law, Act 136, Session Laws of Hawai‘i 2019, the counties determine the locations and hours of the Voting Service Centers (VSCs).
Hawai‘i Island only has 2 VSCs (Hilo and Kona) for the first time Hawai‘i will be voting statewide by mail. There will no longer be traditional polling locations on election days. Voting by mail must be complimented with sufficient voter service centers, because voting by mail does not work for everyone.
We feel that this will not be sufficient to serve the needs of the voters of such a large county. The county has some experience with this type of effort in the 2018 Primary Election. As you recall, the 2 precincts in lower Puna were declared all-mail- ballot precincts due to the lava flow emergency. Even with education and notices sent, dozens of voters still showed up in person in Pahoa to vote on Election Day.
In the ordinary course, new voting procedures typically cause disruptions and problems the first time they are used. This problem will be compounded by the sheer magnitude of the shift to mail-voting, coupled with the chaos and confusion caused by the virus.
The reality is that many voters, especially in communities and demographic groups with poor mail access, are used to voting in-person, prefer to do so, and will not be willing or able to vote by mail. Those voters will need safe and healthy in-person voting options for the Primary and General Election.
Thus, voters with disabilities, voters needing language assistance, voters same day register to vote, voters in rural areas, voters who move frequently, need VSCs to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Only having 2 VSCs on Hawai‘i Island will be creating barriers to voting.
The Hawai'i Island County Clerk may and most definitely should set up more than 2 VSCs. There is CARES Act Funding that the county may receive from the State for additional VSCs.
LWV Hawai'i County is pleading for our elected officials to protect our Constitutional right to vote.
Rosemarie Muller, President
League of Women Voters of Hawai‘i County
Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy