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Improve turnout by making it easier to vote

By Staff | Jan 28, 2016

With the races for governor and mayor off the ballot this year, and no controversial ballot question on GMOs, will voter turnout on Maui fall to disgraceful levels?

Realizing that voter turnout is traditionally horrible in our state – typically around 40-50 percent – members of the Hawaii Future Caucus in the Hawaii State Legislature are wisely pushing absentee voting.

The caucus, a bipartisan coalition of legislators under 35, seeks to create a statewide absentee voter system to increase accessibility to voting and improve Hawaii’s low turnout.

A proposed bill requires the Office of Elections to begin election-by-mail in phases, starting with counties with a population of fewer than 100,000 in 2016 and increasing to full statewide implementation.

Voting service centers would still be made available for those who would prefer to cast their ballot in person.

“A little more than 50 percent of the citizens in our state voted in the 2014 election, and we have continuously been spotlighted nationally for our low voter turnout,” said District 27 Rep. Takashi Ohno.

“Offering more options to people that make the process accessible, easy and convenient can only help in breaking down the barriers that bar the average person from making their vote count.”

Another issue from past elections was that Hawaii voters wanting to cast a ballot in-person had to be registered no later than 30 days before the election.

Credit Hawaii Future Caucus member Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui for introducing HB 2590, allowing citizens to register at early voting sites beginning in 2016 (same-day registration) and at polling places on Election Day in 2018.

Hawaii lawmakers in 2014 passed this legislation that paves the way for citizens to register to vote when they show up to cast a ballot.

Given the apathy in politics, how hard Maui residents work and our beautiful island’s many distractions, the state has to make it as easy as possible to register and vote.