LIHUE — The last chance to register for voting in the general election opens today with early voting at the Lihue Neighborhood Center, and in this election there’s a twist: ballot selfies.
Early voting will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There’s a chance you’ll see someone snapping a photo as they leave the booth during voting season.
The practice of voters displaying ballot photos online is banned in 18 states, but Hawaii approved the selfies in the last legislative session.
On Kauai, the popularity of ballot selfies hasn’t picked up steam, but it’s never been discouraged, either.
“I don’t think it was ever a problem because we always believed taking a selfie and showing your ballot was a first amendment freedom of speech (action),” said Lyndon Yoshioka, administrator for the Elections Division of the Office of the County Clerk.
During past voting events, Yoshioka said he hasn’t seen anyone take a ballot selfie, and the elections office hasn’t received “a whole lot of calls about it.”
“If it’s happening, it’s not disrupting the operations so it seems,” Yoshioka said. “People might be doing it in the privacy of their own voting booth and that’ll minimize disruption to others.”
Some states that ban ballot selfies say the photos could harm the integrity of the voting process by encouraging vote-buying or coercion, according to the Associated Press.
“Some people might say that they’re doing it to prove to someone that they did or did not support a candidate and that might warrant some type of award, but we’ve never seen that,” Yoshioka said.
Popular social media platforms, such as Snapchat, have filed briefs in support of ballot selfies and many of those companies argue that the ability to share photos helps encourage political involvement among young people.
“The First Amendment needs to be guarded rigorously. These old laws cannot and should not be applied to the modern technology,” Gilles Bissonnette, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire told the AP. “We had a failure to recognize the importance of online political speech, especially to the younger generation.”
Whether voters decide to post evidence of their 2016 decision, the chance is there for the taking at Lihue Neighborhood Center, where early voting will be available until Nov. 5.
“This seems to be a good option for people who have missed the (registration) deadline, so we’re hoping people will take advantage of that,” Yoshioka said.
Monday, Mai’lika Napoleon was helping set up for early voting.
“I just graduated (college) and someone from the office asked me if I wanted to work, and I said why not?” Napoleon said.
Unregistered individuals can appear in person at early voting polling places where they can register and vote at the same time, Yoshioka said, but early voting is the last chance to get both done at once.
“(Late registration is) not a service that’s offered at the polls,” Yoshioka said, “and if you register at early voting, you must vote at early voting.”
On Kauai, voting numbers are pretty evenly split between Election Day and early voting, which runs for 10 days and ends the Saturday before Election Day.
“It really depends on the individual and their preference, whether they’re getting it out of the way or if they need more time to make up their minds,” Yoshioka said.
Primary season was slow, though, so Yoshioka is hoping to see an uptick in voter numbers through the early voting season and into the general election.
“We’d love it if it picked up,” Yoshioka said. “A lot of people aren’t aware that we’re open on Saturdays, so that’s something to remember. We offer this service on the weekend.”