Primary Election Day in Hawaii


By Melvin Ah Ching

Primary election day came and went in Hawaii. The usual suspects, perennial candidates and newcomers all made a run for their party’s nomination to high profile government positions in the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Governor and Lt. Governor, seats in the Hawaii State Legislature, City Councils and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Elections are the best opportunity for the people of Hawaii (or anywhere else) to vote poorly performing incumbents out of office and give new people a chance to run the government. More often than not, the incumbent candidates usually win, especially in Hawaii.

I went to my precinct polling place and cast my ballot during the lunch hour. The polling place was not very crowded, which meant that it was easy to fill out the poll book, get my ballot and cast my vote.

Almost too easy.

First off, I walked to table A to E to sign the poll book. I told the old woman who was at the table that my last name starts with A. She gave me the book, I flipped through a few pages, found my name and affixed my signature to the space next to it.

She then gave me the red and white “Ballot Secrecy Folder” with my ballot.

I walked to an empty voting booth and once behind the striped curtain, I pulled my ballot out. To my surprise there were two ballots! The woman had given me two ballots.

The brief thought of actually casting two votes per candidate was a bit amusing for just a brief moment. But my honesty and fear of criminal prosecution kicked in. I walked out of the booth and showed the lady my two ballots and gave one of them back to her.

I went back in and spent a few minutes casting my votes, and yes, snapped pictures of my ballot. The photos were taken before I marked the ballot. I forgot to take a picture of the two ballots I briefly had. Darn.

I took a picture after I cast my votes to remember who I voted for years from now.

Regular readers of this blog probably know who I may have voted for, though I have not posted many political things here, nor to the other blog I set up to do just that. Lazy I guess, but lately I’ve too busy to keep up with my own blogs when I have other priorities.

I voted, walked out of the booth and over to the place where the machine collected the ballot. I gently nudged the ballot into the slot of the machine and like a photocopier, it slid in with no problem. The small LED screen indicated my ballot was proper and a small American flag showed up to confirm my vote.

Having worked once as a poll observer at an election several years ago, I know that when the paper ballots slide into the machine, votes are counted by the reader built in to it. The black marks made on the ballot are optically scanned and registered to a flash card mounted inside the machine. At the end of the voting day, the cards and ballots are picked up and taken back to the State Capitol for processing and counting.

I don’t think anyone counts the actual paper ballots though they are collected and put into safe boxes for transport back to the State Capitol Counting Center and later to the State Elections Office somewhere in Pearl City for storage.

I can imagine a gigantic warehouse full of old ballots that were kept from past elections that probably looks like the place where the Ark of the Covenant was stored at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie. I wonder if they keep all of the old paper ballots and for how long.

I got my voter confirmation slip. The deed was done.


The slip was handed to me by a guy who was monitoring the machine near the exit doorway. Off in a corner was one electronic voting machine which no one was using.

As I left my polling place one observation came to mind.

I was not asked to show an I.D. when I first signed the book. Did the lady at the table forget to ask me to show my I.D.? I know in the past, I had to show my I.D. before I signed the book and got a ballot.

The State of Hawaii does require voters to show an I.D.

So the question is how many people were allowed to vote without an I.D.?

Then there is that two ballot thing. How often does this occur? You know in past elections, I do recall that there were two people sitting at the sign in table. One person got you to sign the book, checked your I.D. and another person on the same table handed you the ballot in the folder.

Why the change I wonder? Did the Office of Elections not have enough workers to cover the election? Are officials from the various parties monitoring the election at each precinct?

Despite those concerns, we can generally rest assured that the process went smoothly after the polls closed.

The process will be repeated all over again for the November 6 General Election.


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.