Legislators Take Steps to Ensure Hawai'i Residents can Vote by Mail
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – President Trump explained his decision to block funding to the United States Postal Service (USPS) because it would prevent Americans from voting by mail in the upcoming general election, including voters in Hawaiʻi. Representative Chris Lee, Chair of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary, and Senator Karl Rhoads, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, whose committees oversee elections issues in Hawaiʻi, are taking steps to ensure Hawaiʻi residents will not be blocked from voting regardless of what the President’s administration may do to defund or delay the USPS.
President Trump told reporters Wednesday that he had refused to sign off on an emergency funding package that included $25 billion for the Postal Service and $3.5 billion for election security. In an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network Thursday, Trump linked his decision to block those funds to his opposition to mail voting. “That’s election money, basically,” he said.
“They need that money in order to have the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots…But if they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it.” He added, “Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.”
Other changes at the USPS this month include reducing post office mail boxes in communities, removing sorting equipment from facilities, reducing staff coverage during high-volume periods, and increasing the cost of mailing election ballots.
Representative Chris Lee explains, “60 percent more Hawaiʻi residents voted in our primary election breaking all voting records because they could do it more easily and safely by mail. We can’t let these attempts to stop people from voting by defunding the postal service undermine free and fair elections in this country. This is more important than the fortunes of any political party or the outcome of any election – it’s an attempt to undermine people’s ability to vote, an attempt to undermine democracy itself.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that the President’s attempts to disenfranchise Hawaiʻi voters fail. Our first all mail in election was a tremendous success. Trump is afraid that everyone will vote and his unprecedented attack on the Post Office is an admitted attempt to stop voting by mail,” said Senator Karl Rhoads.
Senator Rhoads and Representative Lee have begun working to prevent voters from being disenfranchised and have initiated requests to:
Mail ballots to voters several days early so people will have additional time to vote in case of any USPS delays.
Consider expanding voter ballot drop boxes where appropriate to ensure people can more easily deposit ballots in case of any USPS delays.
Have the Attorney General begin assessing the State of Hawaiʻi’s legal options should these attempts to prevent people from voting continue.
The primary election on August 8th was Hawaiʻi’s first entirely vote-by-mail election. 406,425 votes were cast—a 60.8% increase over the 2016 primary eclipsing all previous records for voting in the state.