When polls close and why leaving a blank counts for constitutional amendments

People have been asking some great questions on General Election Day that aren’t about the candidates.

If you have anything you’d like us to find out more about, just send in a Report It via this link: http://khon2.com/report-it/

Question: When do the polls close on election day?

The hours of voting are from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. However, the law also says that if anyone is in line waiting to vote, the location will remain open until everyone that is in line at 6:00 p.m. has cast their ballot.

If you get to the poll after 6:00 p.m., you will be too late.

§11-131 Hours of voting. The polls shall be opened by the precinct officials at 7:00 a.m. of the election day and shall be kept open continuously until 6:00 p.m. of that day. If, at the closing hour of voting, any voter desiring to vote is standing in line outside the entrance of the polls with the desire of entering and voting, but due to the polling place being overcrowded has been unable to do so, the voter shall be allowed to vote irrespective of the closing hour of voting. No voter shall be permitted to enter or join the line after the prescribed hour for closing the polls. If all of the registered voters of the precinct have cast their votes prior to the closing time, the polls may be closed earlier but the votes shall not be counted until after closing time unless allowed by the chief election officer. [L 1970, c 26, pt of §2; am L 1973, c 217, §1(mm); gen ch 1985]”

Question: Why to blank votes and over votes count for amendments to the State Constitution?

Ballots with blank and over votes are only counted for amendments to the State Constitution. In all other races and county charter amendments, blank and over votes do not matter.

The State Constitution states the following:

“The revision or amendments shall be effective only if approved at a general election by a majority of all the votes tallied upon the question, this majority constituting at least fifty per cent of the total vote cast at the election…” – The Constitution of the State of Hawaii, article XVII, section 2

In 1997, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that a constitutional amendment needed at least 50 percent of the total ballots cast with a yes vote. Total ballots cast was interpreted to include blank votes and over votes.

It is commonly misunderstood that blank and over votes count as no. They don’t. Ballots with blank and over votes count for the total ballots cast that are compared to the number of yes votes for a constitutional amendment.

“Because a ballot is “cast” without regard to whether the ballot indicates the choice of the voter, the phrase “ballots cast,” in its natural sense, refers to the total number of ballots deposited in the ballot box, including blank ballots and over votes.” – Hawaii State AFL-CIO v. Yoshina (1997)

Remember that this is only for constitutional amendments.

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