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    Hawaii: What to expect on election night

    November 2, 2022 GMT

    Hawaii is one of the nation’s most reliably blue states, with Democrats dominating federal and statewide elected offices. Joe Biden won 63% of the vote in 2020, while 34% cast ballots for Donald Trump.

    The state’s top race is the gubernatorial contest featuring Republican former Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona and Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat. Aiona served as second-in-command under Hawaii’s last Republican governor from 2002 to 2010 but has run unsuccessfully for governor twice since.

    All of Hawaii’s congressional seats are expected to be safe for the incumbents, who are Democrats.

    Republican Joe Akana, a businessman and former U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst, is battling Democratic former state Sen. Jill Tokuda for the only open seat, which represents the 2nd Congressional District covering suburban Honolulu and Hawaii’s rural islands. Akana secured 28.4% of the vote for the same seat two years ago, when he lost to U.S. Rep. Kaiali‘I Kahele. Kahele didn’t run for re-election in 2022 and instead chose to mount what turned out to be an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor.

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    In the other House race for the 1st Congressional District covering urban Honolulu, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, a Democrat, is facing Republican Conrad Kress, a former Navy SEAL.

    For the U.S. Senate seat, Republican state Rep. Bob McDermott is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat.

    Democrats currently control 47 of the 51 seats in the state House and 24 of the 25 seats in the state Senate. Republicans hold the remainder.

    Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:

    ELECTION NIGHT

    Polls close at 7 p.m. local time (1 a.m. ET) though some may stay open later to allow anyone in line at a voter service center to vote.

    HOW HAWAII VOTES

    Hawaii is a vote-by-mail state. County clerks began mailing ballots to all registered voters in mid-October. Each county operates at least one voter service center where voters can cast ballots in person during the two weeks leading up to Election Day if they choose. New voters may go there to register to vote, including on Election Day. The counties also maintain numerous drop boxes around their islands where votes can deposit ballots.

    The state Office of Elections will begin releasing vote counts once all the voter service centers have closed on Election Day. The latest they are scheduled to stay open is 7 p.m., but anyone in line at that point will be allowed to vote.

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    Under Hawaii law, the counties are responsible for voter registration, mailing out ballots and receiving completed ballots. They also verify that the signatures on the envelopes of returned ballots match the signatures they have on file for voters. The state Office of Elections is responsible for printing, counting and tabulating ballots.

    Hawaii switched to vote-by-mail in 2020 under a law passed before the coronavirus pandemic.

    Voter turnout surged, hitting 69.6% in that year’s general election. That was up 11 percentage points over 2016 and was the state’s highest voter turnout since 1994. Of the 579,784 ballots cast, more than 551,000 were returned by the mail or ballot drop box and nearly 29,000 were submitted in person.

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    DECISION NOTES

    AP will tabulate and declare winners in 68 contested elections in Hawaii, including governor, U.S. Senate and two U.S. House races.

    Results could be delayed if there’s a long line at poll closing. That’s what happened in 2020, when it took four hours for the line outside a suburban Honolulu voter service center to clear. The Office of Elections had to wait until 11:30 p.m. that day to release its first results. On Election Day during this year’s primary, officials released the first results at 7:30 p.m.

    The first round of results will likely include ballots processed through Nov. 7, the day before Election Day. That will account for about 80% of ballots cast, so the outcome of many races could be apparent shortly after polls officially close.

    AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. Only when AP is fully confident a race has been won – defined most simply as the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call. Should a candidate declare victory – or offer a concession – before AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain the reason why we believe the race is too early or too close to call.

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    The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome.

    Hawaii law requires a recount when a victory margin is less than 100 ballots or 0.25% of votes cast, whichever is greater. The results of the recount must be publicly announced no later than 72 hours after the closing of polls on Election Day.

    The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.

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    WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?

    Q: WHAT DID WE LEARN FROM THE PRIMARY?

    A: Turnout dropped back near 2018 midterm primary levels. In the August primary, 39.8% of registered voters cast ballots. That compares to 51.2% in the 2020 presidential election year primary and 38.6% in the 2018 mid-term primary.

    Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?

    A: Hawaii has more ballot drop boxes. In Honolulu County, the number increased to 15 from 12 in 2020.

    Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?

    A: The Office of Elections expects to release a second report at 10 p.m. This will include votes from voter service centers and ballots processed through the afternoon on Election Day. They will release a final report once all counties have completed processing ballots. During the primary, the final report was released around 6:30 p.m. the day after Election Day.

    Q: WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS WITH EARLY RETURNS?

    A: Some of the races — most likely down-ballot races — may be so close that a recount will be required by law.

    Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?

    A: Possible recounts for races with narrow margins. Those seeking to file a complaint about election results must do so with the state Supreme Court by Nov. 28. The state’s chief elections officer is expected to certify the results after this deadline.

    PARTING THOUGHT

    Hawaii doesn’t have a secretary of state. Hawaii is the only state where election certification is overseen by a nonpartisan chief election official appointed by a bipartisan commission. The state’s chief elections officer reports to the state Elections Commission, which has nine members. Four of the nine are appointed by Democrats at the Legislature and four are appointed by Republicans. These eight select a ninth member — the chairperson — by a two-thirds vote.

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    Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

    Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections