Our democracy will only benefit from increased engagement, civil debate and diverse viewpoints. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to encourage this groundswell of active citizenry, by identifying and removing barriers to participation?
According to the Appleseed Center for Law & Economic Justice, it is harder for lower-income voters to make it to the polls. They may work far from their polling place or have a hard time taking off from work to vote. In Hawaii the high cost of living coupled with low wages leads many to work second and third jobs to support their families. For some, taking off work to vote and waiting in line may simply not be feasible. Shouldn’t we seek to ensure that all of Hawaii’s residents are encouraged and empowered to vote, especially those most impacted by economic inequality in our state?
As a state with the most abysmal voter turnout in the nation, Hawaii should be looking toward best practices for increasing voter participation. We should look towards voting improvements which will help bring marginalized voices to the table. Did you know that Oregon switched to all mail ballots 20 years ago, and has seen increased voter participation ever since? Other states have had similar results.
And voting by ,ail will save Hawaii money, an estimated $750K/year after a one-time start up cost of $1M. Imagine what that those savings could support.
Increased voter turnout and a cost savings to the state. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Understandably, some will still prefer to go the polls. The act of going to a polling location to cast your vote is very much ingrained in our culture of civic participation. There will still be polling sites to accommodate some in-person voting, but it is important to note that increasingly, Hawaii residents have opted to vote by mail. During the 2016 general election, 53.6 percent of eligible Hawaii voters cast their ballots prior to Election Day.
Voting by mail is one tool in larger toolbox of voter modernization measures. We should examine all the ways we can level the playing field, whether it be through automatic voter registration, vote by mail, or publicly funded elections.
Democracy works best when it is truly for the people and by the people. Voting by mail is one important step toward a more robust and vibrant democracy.
Anne Frederik, Executive Director, Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action