Senators: Hawaii’s mail-in voter registration deadline defies law

election vote booth

(AP/KHON2) — Two Democratic senators say nine states are violating federal law with their mail-in voter registration deadlines for the November general election, potentially disenfranchising thousands of people by blocking applications as many as three days earlier than other states.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Patrick Leahy of Vermont asked the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to intervene and work with election officials in those states to ensure compliance with the National Voting Rights Act. The states cited in their letter Thursday are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

The calendar appears to be the culprit.

The deadline for registering by mail under federal law — 30 days before the election — falls on a Sunday this year. The next day happens to be Columbus Day, when there will be no postal service, preventing registrations from being postmarked. All other states have adjusted their deadlines to account for the long holiday weekend, accepting registration applications postmarked by Tuesday, Oct. 11.

On their website, the Hawaii Office of Elections says that voter registration applications must be postmarked by October 8, 2016.

Hawaii does not recognize Columbus Day and instead recognizes Discoverers’ Day, which is not a state holiday by statute since 1988.

Election Assistance Commission spokesman Bryan Whitener said the agency is reviewing the senators’ request.

The voter registration deadlines cited by the senators apply only to applications that are mailed in. All these states also offer in-person registration, including Hawaii.

Starting in 2016, Hawaii voters are eligible for late registration at early walk-in voting locations. Early walk-in voting locations are open from Oct. 25 through Nov. 5.

Hawaii also allows for online registration with a deadline of Oct. 10, 2016.


Associated Press writers Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; Claudia Lauer in Little Rock, Arkansas; Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island; Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City; and Terry Tang in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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