Earlier primary voting considered


POSTED: Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hawaii election officials are considering asking the Legislature to move up the state's primary date to comply with a new federal law designed to protect the voting rights of American troops and civilians overseas, Hawaii's top elections officer said.

Under the federal statute, signed by President Barack Obama on Oct. 28, ballots must be sent to overseas voters at least 45 days before an election.

Hawaii's 2010 primary is scheduled for Sept. 18—45 days before the Nov. 2 general election. But general election ballots can't be printed until the winners of the primary are certified, usually days or weeks after voting ends.

It can take many days for absentee ballots to make their way through foreign and U.S. military mail systems and arrive in Hawaii. And some foreign governments don't include dates on their postmarks, state Chief Election Officer Kevin Cronin said last week.

Changing the 2010 primary would probably be too difficult, even 11 months out, Cronin said. State officials and county clerks will probably request a waiver from the federal government so the primary can proceed as scheduled, he said.

But officials may ask lawmakers next year to consider a change to the 2012 primary date, he said.

Under state law, Hawaii's primary elections take place on the second-to-last Saturday of September of even-numbered years, but can be held no sooner than 45 days before the general election. Hawaii has the latest primary in the country, Cronin said.

The new federal law allows states to obtain waivers, but only after answering several questions about why it can't comply.

At least a dozen states may be affected by the law, and will consider holding their primaries earlier or negotiating another plan that is acceptable to federal officials.

Military voters whose residency is in Hawaii experienced no problems casting absentee ballots in the 2008 elections, Hawaii National Guard spokesman Capt. Jeff Hickman said.