There are many issues that concern local residents. Lack of affordable rentals and housing, poorly maintained roads and visitors overcrowding our islands are problems everyone has to deal with daily. In fact, we have been dealing with them daily for the last twenty five years.
There is too much apathy in the community. “Why vote? We grumble, but nothing happens” or, “It takes too long to change the political system.” This reasoning is dismal.
There was a time when Kaua’i had 94% of registered voters turning out to vote. Politicians paid attention to their voting constituents. Complaints from the citizenry were regarded as concerns about what was happening in our communities, and politicians responded accordingly.
But the demographics of our islands have changed, as have the issues. Too often we opine about them but do nothing. On Kauai, over forty percent of the registered voters in the last election didn’t even show up to vote or send in their ballot.
The good news is that it is easier to do things in today’s world. We value convenience. But we tend to forget to act if something is not right in front of us. That is true of voting too.
You want to take back your community, our island, our state? You want safe and well-maintained roads with minimal potholes? Uncrowded beaches and our special places kept special for our peace of mind? REGISTERING TO VOTE is the first step. This year the entire state will Vote By Mail, starting with the primary on Aug 8, and the General Election on November 3.
Registering and confirming that the Office of Elections has your current address will ensure that you get your ballot in the mail and can make your voice heard. You can have a tremendous impact in the coming election, if you are registered. Being registered means you will get reminders like the yellow card. You will get campaign materials—and therefore you will be a more informed voter. Go to https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ and make sure your voter information is accurate. Or, if you have not registered yet, this is a good time to do so.
Improving access to voting
This year the Legislature has the opportunity to make voting more accessible and convenient with Automatic Voter Registration(AVR). If enacted, when applying for, or renewing your driver’s license or your State of Hawai’i ID, eligible citizens will have their information automatically sent to the Office of Elections to allow them to vote when Primary Day and Election Day rolls around, unless they opt-out.
Combined with the Vote By Mail (VBM), AVR will help further modernize our elections. Frequent updates to our voter rolls ensure that ballots are sent to the correct voters. This enhances election security and results in hundreds of thousands in cost savings by getting it right the first time.
States with AVR and VBM such as Oregon and Colorado have turnout generally in the 60-70% range. Ours is in the 40-50% range. We can do better. We must do better if we want to improve life on all our islands.
However it takes more than just your vote alone. Please encourage your family and friends to go to https://olvr.hawaii.gov/ and check that their voter information is correct. You can, and should have a voice in shaping policies that affect your life and the life of your family and community. Voting gives you the ability to make that voice heard.
Lawmakers have a great opportunity here to change the political landscape and make government more efficient. But each of us also has an obligation to do our part and reach out to others to persuade them to become more civically engaged. I am doing my part by reaching out to everyone here: please let your legislator know you support AVR- Automatic Voter Registration!
Ted Kawahinehelelni Blake was born and raised in Koloa, Kaua’i. He is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, Attended Orange Coast College, the College of Idaho and the University of Hawai’i. He is a member of Hui Malama o Koloa, Koloa District Community Assn, E Alu Pu and Kua’aina Ulu ‘Auamo (KUA)