Ahead of Hawaii’s Aug. 4 primary, the state saw an increase in its rate of registered voters as well as an uptick in requests for mail ballots.
The total number of voter registrations reached 697,033—the highest in the state’s history—which represents a rise of 2 percent from the 2010 gubernatorial primary. This spike may be related to the historic challenges to two incumbents, Governor Neil Abercrombie and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz, as well as competition for an open U.S. House seat.
Mail ballot requests jumped 12 percent since the 2012 election, but voter turnout did not improve as a result. Historically, Hawaii’s turnout in primary elections has been under 50 percent of registered voters. In 2010, turnout was 49 percent of registered voters, and unofficial results indicate that turnout was less than 42 percent in the August primary. Pew’s Elections Performance Index found that Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation in 2008 and 2012.
In addition, Tropical Storm Iselle hit the state just before this year’s primary, which caused two polling places on the Big Island to close, affecting as many as 8,255 registered voters. Early voting sites on the island also closed four hours earlier than scheduled on the Thursday before Election Day.