Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Har and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports HB198 which clarifies where an absentee ballot for a permanent absentee voter is to be mailed. In most cases this is straightforward - the absentee ballot will be mailed to the mailing address on the voter’s most recently completed affidavit application for voter
But it is our understanding that if absentee ballots are returned to elections officials by the U.S. Post Office for any reason, it is not possible for officials to forward this ballot to an address different than that from the voter’s official address of record maintained by elections officials, even if the voter has provided a temporary forwarding address to the U.S. Post Office.
Sometimes a permanent absentee voter may be temporarily away from the address provided by the voter on their most recent affidavit for voter registration. This could occur either at the time a voter first completes an affidavit application for permanent absentee status, or a temporary change could occur after a voter has permanent absentee status. Our interpretation is that Section 15 (4), h of this measure already addresses temporary mailing address changes for those who already have permanent absentee status, and that no change is needed in this procedure.
This bill proposes mailing instructions for situations where the voter is completing an initial affidavit application for permanent status, knowing they will be at a temporary address when absentee ballots will be mailed. The bill provides that when this occurs, the voter must complete a temporary mailing authorization, permitting elections authorities to mail the absentee ballot to the temporary address provided by the voter for all elections in the year the authorization is received. Thereafter, the absentee ballot for the permanent absentee voter would be mailed to the address listed on the voter’s most recently completed affidavit application for voter registration.
This measure would avoid frustrating applicants for permanent absentee voting who know they will be temporarily away from home when their ballot is delivered and who wish to receive a ballot at their temporary address. It is an important step in making Hawaii’s permanent absentee voting procedures more clear, and is particularly important as we move forward with more widespread vote-by-mail approaches. Making the changes bill provides added service for voters.
We urge you to pass this measure. Thank you for the opportunity to testify.