Civil Beat Guide: 2022 is a big year for politics and elections in Hawaii

Politics, government and democracy take center stage this year in the islands. Hawaii voters have the opportunity to select a new governor this year, as Gov. David Ige completes his second and final term in December. The position of lieutenant governor is also open.

Voters will also have the opportunity to vote for one of the state’s two U.S. senators and the two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. And all 76 seats in the Hawaii State Legislature are open, thanks to redistribution that takes place every 10 years based on the latest US census.

There are nonpartisan county council races in all four counties as well as mayoral contests in Kauai and Maui counties. A run-off is required if a mayoral candidate receives no more than 50% of the total votes cast in their particular race. Each county has its own system for determining which council candidates run in the general election on November 8.

And nonpartisan contests will be held for some of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ trustee seats. OHA races also have playoff provisions.

The primary election is always the most important in Hawaii because the state is so heavily dominated by one political party – the Democrats. A number of state-level races for the House and Senate will be decided in the primary, which is August 13.

Hawaii has historically had one of the lowest voter turnouts in the country. But that changed drastically in 2020 when Hawaii implemented statewide mail-in voting. Overall voter turnout was the highest since 1994, though it still trailed huge turnouts after the state was established in 1959.

Ballots for the primary are expected to start arriving in the mail on July 26. Completed ballots must be received by the County Division of Elections by the close of voting – 7 p.m. – on August 13.

County electoral divisions also provide voter service centers that will be open 10 days before and on Election Day. Services include accessible in-person voting and same-day registration. And there are also drop box locations in every county.

This map from the State Office of Elections shows the locations of voting centers and drop boxes:

Voters can also register online to vote. The deadline to register to vote for the August 13 primary is August 3.

If you miss the deadline to register for the election, you can still enter and register before and on election day (with proper identification or documentation of your residence) at service centers at voters, who will be open from August 1 to August 13 for the primary.

You can find early voting dates and the steps and deadline for requesting an absentee ballot on the State Office of Elections website.

The 2022 races

You can read the full list of candidates who will be on the primary ballot here. Some candidates who filed by the June 7 deadline will only be on the general election ballot, depending on how many others filed in their race.

No U.S. Senator from Hawaii has ever lost re-election, and only one U.S. Representative from Hawaii has not been re-elected. Such is the power of the incumbent in Hawaii, especially for majority Democrats.

But four Republicans are vying to be their party’s nominee to run against the Democratic nominee, who will either be Sen. Brian Schatz, who has held the seat since late 2012, or another Democrat who is also in the field. Three third party candidates – the Green, Libertarian and Aloha Aina parties – are also in the hunt, along with a few nonpartisan candidates.

Republicans, third-party and nonpartisan candidates also compete to represent Hawaii in the 1st Congressional District (the greater Honolulu area) and the 2nd Congressional District (the rest of Oahu and all neighboring islands).

In the CD1 Democratic primary, Rep. Ed Case takes on political newcomer Sergio Alcubilla. In CD2, former State Senator Jill Tokuda takes on State House Representative Pat Branco and four other Democrats.

Rep. Sylvia Luke spoke at a floor session in early May to honor some lawmakers leaving office. They include Luke, who is running for lieutenant governor. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Rep. Kai Kahele, who represents CD2, surprised many when he decided not to seek a second term in Congress to run for governor. He faces Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, former first lady Vicky Cayetano and four other Democrats in the primary.

On the GOP side, 10 candidates are running in the Republican primary for governor. The contest includes former Lt. Governor Duke Aiona, veteran mixed martial arts fighter BJ Penn and Honolulu City Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi.

Three GOP candidates and one nonpartisan candidate are vying for lieutenant governor, but the main focus is on the four of the six Democrats who are fairly well-known political figures: State Representative Sylvia Luke, former Honolulu City Council Speaker Ikaika Anderson, Sherry Menor-McNamara of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce and former insurance executive Keith Amemiya.

In the Hawaii Legislative Assembly, the 25 Senate seats and 51 House seats are up due to redistribution, which redraws district lines every 10 years based on the latest census data. While House seats are still for two years, four-year Senate seats will be staggered: Districts 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 16, 18, 19, 22, 23 and 24 will serve a two-year term. beginning in 2023 while Districts 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 20, 21 and 25 will serve four-year terms. The 12 seats to be filled in 2024 will then resume the normal four-year term.

The departures of top lawmakers such as Senator Roz Baker and Representative Sylvia Luke mean there will be leadership changes in the 2023 legislative session. There are also many incumbents seeking re-election, a many unopposed.

Cross Su'e-Kepilino, 16, sits inside the Capitol rotunda before the first day of the Legislature's opening.
Opening day at the Rotonde du Capitole in January. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

All seats in the seven-member Kauai County Council, nine-member Hawaii County Council, and nine-member Maui County Council are up this year, as are four of the seats on the nine-member Honolulu City Council. There are also mayoral races in Kauai and Maui counties where incumbents Derek Kawakami and Mike Victorino, respectively, face multiple challengers.

Six of the nine seats on the Board of Directors of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs are up this year: three general seats and one seat each representing the island of Hawaii, Oahu and Maui. Incumbents seeking re-election include Mililani Trask, John Waihee IV, Brendon Kalei’aina Lee, Leiana’ala Ahu Isa and Kalei Akaka.

There will be no constitutional amendment questions on the 2022 general election ballot. But Hawaii and Kauai County are considering amending their respective government charters. There may also be charter questions for Maui and Oahu Counties, and this guide will be updated once that is determined.

If the proposed charter amendments pass, the approved language of voting questions will be due at the Hawaii State Board of Elections on August 25.

Civil Beat Election Guide

The Hawaii Office of Elections website is the best place to find all the election information you need, including how and when to register, how to find your polling place, and when you can start voting.

You can follow all of Civil Beat’s coverage as election season progresses in our Hawaii 2022 election guide.

In the meantime, here are some other resources we’ve put together to help you get through the 2020 election:

Unofficial ballot for the 2022 primary elections: Our way to help you keep track of races and candidates in your district. We are once again sending questionnaires to candidates, asking them to give us their position on key issues specific to the function for which they are running. You could find connections to these questions and answers on this page.

Hawaii Civics 101: Our series of short explainer videos help you understand politics, government and democracy in Aloha State.

The Civil Beat Poll: We conduct our own independent polls on a variety of topics and issues as the election season progresses. Watch for the first of the 2022 election season to be released in late June. Check here to read what Hawaii has said about racing and statewide and local issues in past polls.

Civil Beat Politics: Learn more about the candidates and the issues by joining our Facebook group, Civil Beat Politics. We aim to promote civil – yet spirited – discussion and participation in the 2020 election. You can air your thoughts on campaigns, candidates and issues with friends, colleagues and even political rivals. But it’s also a place to connect with other community members who want to become more active in this year’s elections.

Voter Education and Participation

Get information and help from these organizations:

League of Women Voters of Hawaii

Pew Charitable Trusts/Research Center

Vote smart

Campaign finance resources

The state and federal government impose contribution limits when giving directly to candidates. The money was paid out to candidates and political committees for the 2020 elections. You can track the money yourself on a number of political sites and online campaigns:

Federal Candidates and Committees:

• Center for Responsive Policy

• Federal Election Commission

• Campaign Finance Institute

Candidates and State Committees:

• Hawaii Campaign Expenses Commission

• National Institute on Money in State Politics

Statewide Election Offices

These offices oversee elections in Hawaii:

Hawaii Office of Elections

City and County of Honolulu

Hawaii County

Maui County

Kauai County

Political parties

Hawaii Democratic Party

Republican Party of Hawaii

Hawaii Libertarian Party

The Green Party of Hawaii

Aloha Aina Party

Constitutional Party of Hawaii

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