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Commentary: Increasing Voter Turnout in Hawai?i

Ryan Ozawa

For the last five presidential elections, Hawai?i has ranked last in the nation in voter turnout. There are some ideas on the topic before the current legislative session. Corie Tanida of Common Cause Hawai?i says several are worth considering. She has more in this commentary. 

In the 2016 presidential election, only 43% of voters in Hawai?i cast a ballot. That’s a far cry from the 93% voter turnout in 1959 when we became the 50th state.

How do we fix this?

We must work together, Democrats, Republicans, small parties, and independents, to restore balance to our democracy. Common sense election modernizations like voting by mail can do just that AND bring our elections into the 21st century.

For the many who cannot afford to spend hours away from work to vote at the polls, Vote-By-Mail is the solution. It meets voters where they are and it is not a new concept—think absentee voting without the extra application.

It does not preclude anyone from casting a ballot due to scheduling conflicts and instead creates the opportunity to participate on your own time while saving the state approximately $750 thousand dollars per election cycle. If more of us voted by mail, pressure on poll sites and workers would diminish, and everyone could save valuable time on Election Day.

Credit Nick Yee

Automatic Voter Registration is its logical complement, requiring a small technical update to change our current opt-in system to an opt-out one when you apply for or renew your driver’s license or state ID. Automatic Voter Registration would increase the integrity of our elections with frequent updates to the voter rolls and cost almost 30 times less than processing a paper application.

With these modernizations more eligible citizens can register, vote, and have their voices heard so we can have a democracy that truly represents Hawai?i.

Commentaries on HPR reflect the views of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of HPR. If you have an idea for a commentary on a topic of interest to our state-wide audience, please send an email to our news director Bill Dorman at bdorman@hawaiipublicradio.org

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