THIRTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2019
STATE OF HAWAII
A BILL FOR AN ACT
relating to voting.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:
SECTION 1. The legislature finds that absentee voting by mail currently requires voters to visually read their ballots and mark their only copy of the ballot by hand, which is then submitted by mail and subsequently read by a machine. As a result, vote-by-mail systems for absentee ballots allow ambiguity in determining the intent of each voter, so that ballot reading machines may reject a ballot and, since the voters are not present to correct the issue, their ballots may not be counted properly. If a voter marks his or her absentee ballot and subsequently needs to correct an error, that voter has only one copy of the unmarked ballot and must attempt to correct that error on the same ballot that includes the error. In addition, if a box is not completely filled in, it may be rejected by the ballot reading machine. Human error in the ballot marking process therefore reduces that efficacy of the current vote-by-mail system.
The legislature further finds that voters with disabilities have the same rights to vote privately and independently by absentee ballot as do voters without disabilities. Voting precincts with high population densities are magnets for residents with disabilities due to increased access to public transportation, and in time of natural disasters some precincts are set up as mail-in-only precincts in which all voters are automatically mailed an absentee ballot and where there is no set polling location. Voters with some disabilities currently do not have an option for private and independent voting using absentee ballots.
The purpose of this Act is to create an option for all absentee voters to mark their absentee ballots using an online ballot marking tool, enabling the voter to print out a completely marked official ballot and submit it like any other absentee ballot, thus reducing human error in the ballot marking process, making the intent of each voter more obvious, and creating greater access to private and independent voting for all voters including voters with disabilities.
SECTION 2. Section 15-1, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new definition to be appropriately inserted and to read as follows:
""Online ballot marking tool" means a system that allows voters to:
(1) Access a blank ballot that conforms to the requirements of part VIII of chapter 11 through the Internet;
(2) Electronically mark the ballot with the voter's selections; and
(3) Print a paper copy of the marked ballot to be returned as specified in section 15-9."
SECTION 3. Section 15-4, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:
"§15-4 Request for absentee ballot. (a) Any person registered to vote may request an absentee ballot or permanent absentee ballot in person or in writing from the clerk at any time but not later than 4:30 p.m. on the seventh day prior to the election. Any mailed requests for an absentee ballot or permanent absentee ballot shall be mailed by the person directly to the clerk. The clerk may waive any or all of the foregoing requirements in special cases as provided in the rules adopted by the chief election officer.
The request shall include information such as the person's social security number, date of birth, and the address under which the person is registered to vote. The request shall also include the address to which the person wishes the requested ballot to be forwarded. The request, when made for any primary or special primary election, may include an additional request for an absentee ballot to be voted at any election immediately following the primary or special primary; provided the person so indicates in the person's request.
Subsequent to the closing of registration for each election, the clerk may mail a request form for an absentee ballot and permanent absentee ballot to each voter in a remote area who has not already made such a request. The request form shall be accompanied by:
(1) A stamped, self-addressed envelope; and
(2) Instructions regarding the manner of completing and returning the request form.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (a), the respective clerk shall be allowed to conduct an absentee ballot-only election and may mail an absentee ballot for each primary, special primary, special, general, and special general election to each registered voter who resides in the county of Kalawao or on any island of a county with a population of less than one hundred eighty thousand, except for the island where the county seat of government is located. The chief election officer may adopt rules to carry out this subsection.
(c) Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, in the event there are fewer than five hundred registered voters as of the preceding general election in an area covered by a unique ballot type, the clerk shall mail an absentee ballot to each registered voter who resides in such an area, if the chief election officer, or the clerk in a county only election, determines that an election day polling place will not be established for such voters.
(d) For the purposes of this section, "ballot type" means the unique ballot containing the contests, questions, or issues that will be used by the voters of a specific area.
(e) When a registered voter requests an absentee ballot, the voter also may include an additional request to receive absentee ballots permanently. After receiving a request for permanent absentee voter status, the clerk shall mail to the voter who requested permanent absentee voter status an absentee ballot for all subsequent elections conducted in that precinct. The forwarding address for absentee ballots to be permanently mailed shall be the in-state mailing address contained in the voter's registration record. Subject to the conditions of subsection (a), a permanent absentee voter may also request from the clerk that the voter's ballot be forwarded temporarily to an address other than the permanent absentee mailing address originally requested, either in or outside of the State, for a single election or for a primary or special primary election and the election immediately following the primary or special primary election. A permanent absentee voter's request for a ballot to be forwarded temporarily shall not serve as a cancellation of the voter's permanent absentee status or as a change to the voter's permanent absentee mailing address. Upon the completion of the election or elections covered by the permanent absentee voter's temporary request under this subsection, the clerk shall resume mailing the voter's ballots to the permanent absentee mailing address originally requested under subsection (a).
(f) The chief election officer shall inform voters of the option of applying for permanent absentee voter status and shall provide any necessary form to request the permanent absentee ballot option to any registered voter requesting an absentee ballot and any person applying to register to vote.
(g) A permanent absentee voter shall be responsible for informing the clerk of any changes to personal information, including changes to the voter's forwarding address.
(h) Except as provided in subsection (c), a voter's permanent absentee voter status shall be terminated if any of the following conditions apply:
(1) The voter requests in writing that such status be terminated;
(2) The voter dies, loses voting rights, registers to vote in another jurisdiction, or is otherwise disqualified from voting;
(3) The voter's absentee ballot, voter notification postcard, or any other election mail is returned to the clerk as undeliverable for any reason; or
(4) The voter does not return a voter ballot by 6:00 p.m. on election day in both the primary and general election of an election year.
(i) If a voter's permanent absentee voter status has been terminated due to one or more of the conditions specified in subsection (h), the voter shall be responsible for again requesting permanent absentee status as specified in subsection (e).
(j) Any person who requests an absentee or permanent absentee ballot may request to receive the absentee or permanent absentee ballot through an online ballot marking tool. The request to receive the absentee or permanent absentee ballot through an online ballot marking tool shall conform to the requirements of subsection (a). The clerk shall make an online ballot marking tool available to any person who requests to receive the absentee or permanent absentee ballot through that method."
SECTION 4. Section 15-5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:
"(a) Immediately upon receipt of a request for absentee ballot within the time limit specified in section 15-4, the clerk shall examine the records to ascertain whether the voter is lawfully entitled to vote as requested. If the clerk ascertains that the voter is lawfully entitled to vote as requested, no earlier than thirty days before the election, the clerk shall mail in a forwarding envelope, or deliver in person if the voter appears at the office of the clerk, an official ballot or online ballot marking tool documentation and other materials prescribed in section 15-6, except that an incapacitated voter may send a representative to obtain the voter's ballots pursuant to the rules adopted by the chief election officer; provided that official ballots and other materials prescribed in section 15-6 shall be mailed or delivered:
(1) To uniform military and overseas voters pursuant to section 15D-9; and
(2) No later than twenty-four hours after receipt of the request for absentee ballot for requests received on the last day specified in section 15-4."
SECTION 5. Section 15-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:
"§15-6 Return envelope, ballot
envelope; instructions. (a) The clerk shall provide the absentee voter
with the ballots[
,] or documentation as provided in subsection (b),
ballot envelopes, and a return envelope that shall contain a statement to be
subscribed to by the voter that affirms the fact that the voter is the person
voting and that the voter's employer or agent of the employer, agent of the
voter's labor union, or any candidate listed on the ballot did not assist the
voter, as described in section 11-139, along with the instruction that the voter's
ballot will be valid only if the affirmation statement is signed, materials
summarizing the provisions in sections 19-3, 19-3.5, 19-4, and 19-6, and any
other information prescribed by the rules promulgated by the chief election
(b) If an absentee voter has requested to receive the absentee or permanent absentee ballot through an online ballot marking tool pursuant to section 15-4(j), the clerk shall provide the absentee voter with documentation that includes:
(1) The uniform resource locator to the web page through which the voter may access the online ballot marking tool; and
(2) Instructions on how to access and use the online ballot marking tool."
SECTION 6. Statutory material to be repealed is bracketed and stricken. New statutory material is underscored.
SECTION 7. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Elections; Absentee Ballots; Online Ballot Marking Tools
Allows voters to request to receive an absentee or permanent absentee ballot through an online ballot marking tool that enables the voter to access a blank ballot online, mark the ballot with the voter's selections, and print the completed ballot to be mailed to the clerk issuing the ballot.
The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.