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Molokai Community Health Center focusing on voter turnout, engagement

Molokai Community Health Center, as seen from above.
Molokai Community Health Center
Molokai Community Health Center
Molokai Community Health Center, as seen from above.

The Molokai Community Health Center will be rolling out several initiatives this election season to engage and educate voters.

A Community Civic Engagement program’s Vot-ER grant is giving the center funding to provide residents with the tools to vote. The grant is in partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers and AltaMed. MCHC joins more than 40 participating states utilizing the program.

Accessibility is top of mind for the center’s CEO, Helen Kekalia. For some, registering to vote can be complex in the same ways navigating the health care system can be.

"We're looking at it in the same vein, just as if someone was uninsured, if someone has not registered to vote, then we want to make that process easy and accessible for them to get registered," Kekalia said in a Tuesday interview.

Part of the conversations now, Kekalia said, is that it opens up a way for MCHC to engage with the community beyond just health care.

The $4,500 grant will support training, site-based voter registration and education material. Staffers will also help voters fill out absentee or mail-in ballots.

During the 2020 election season, Maui had a 42% voter turnout, compared to the state's 51% turnout.

"We saw that there is under representation," Kekalia said.

Maui County voters will face statewide and local elections this season, including a highly competitive run for mayor. That, Kekalia said, is an opportunity.

"There is an opportunity to get more of our people's voices heard and made part of the process," she said. "It will shape what our next state leadership looks like, all the way all the way down on every branch."

Sabrina Bodon was Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter.
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