I often find myself wondering how I can get the attention of the non-voter. Should I yell, or beg or attempt to shame them? Should I tell them their vote really does matter even though nothing ever seems to change? Should I tell them that all politicians are not crooked and many do truly care about the future of our community?
Or should I just ignore their cynicism, accept their ambivalence and speak to the people who do vote?
This is the question every person running for office must ask themselves. Do I spend my limited time and resources speaking to non-voters, or to people that vote?
There is a fundamental rule of politics that goes something like this: “No matter how smart you are, no matter how hard you work and no matter how good you are in your heart, you cannot serve in public office without first getting elected.”
So, the answer of course seems obvious. Candidates primarily focus on those who actually show up at the polls and vote. Statistically this means old people, government workers, higher income demographics, and other specific groups with a defined history of regular voting.
Young people, low to moderate income earners, and new residents have the worst voting records of any demographic. Consequently, they often get less attention from candidates. and less attention when it comes to public policy support and public funding priorities.
If low to moderate income earners voted in large numbers, affordable housing would be a mandate and not a political talking point that never seems to rise to the top of the priority list. If young people became engaged and started voting in large numbers, our schools would be properly funded and there would be universal access made available to all residents who wanted to pursue a higher education.
If history repeats itself, which it normally does, the results of the 2018 primary election that ends on Aug. 11, will be decided by only 30 percent of the voting population.
Thirty percent of the voting population will decide who makes the first cut for election to our County Council, and for the mayor’s race. State legislative races will begin and end at the primary level, because there is no functioning Republican Party fielding candidates at the legislative level. Some would say, WUWT?
The office of thegovernor and the lieutenant governor will also to a great extent be determined in this upcoming primary.
It is an inaccurate statement to say that the primary will be decided by the 30 percent who vote. The truth is that the 70 percent who choose to ignore the primary election and stay home, are the ones really making the decision.
Please know that your vote can make a difference. After running in 10 elections myself over the past 20 years, winning six and losing four, I know very clearly and sometimes painfully so, that every vote does indeed count.
The 2018 primary election concludes on Aug. 11, but early voting is happening now in at the County Annex (4386 Rice Street) next door to the Historic County Building in Lihue. Regardless of where you live you can vote here Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Do a little homework, search out information about the candidates, ask your friends and neighbors for their thoughts, then exercise your civic duty and vote.
If you are not registered to vote, that is not a problem, either. Simply bring in your Hawaii driver’s license and they will register you on the spot and you can vote at the same time.
Those of you who are regular voters, please spread the word and encourage your friends, neighbors, and family members to vote early as well.
We are responsible for the quality of our government leadership. By voting we take active ownership of that responsibility. By not voting we are being neglectful and have no one to blame except ourselves for the conduct of our government and the condition of our community.
Gary Hooser formerly served in the Hawaii State Senate, where he was Majority Leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.