Last year was a terrible year.
Who can disagree?
So many things we wanted to get done got shunted to the side because of COVID19.
But now we must catch up. That means getting more eligible voters engaged in our electoral politics just as they were engaged in helping to feed their neighbors.
Ordinary people stepped up. We cannot lose that momentum and that level of civic engagement. That’s why I am happy that Speaker Saiki and a number of other lawmakers have introduced bills to make automatic voter registration (AVR) a reality in Hawai‘i. This year we can make it happen.
AVR will make voting more accessible, secure and convenient. Here’s how it works. When you go to the DMV to apply for or renew your driving license or your state of Hawai‘i ID, eligible citizens will have their updated information automatically sent to the Office of Elections to allow them to vote when Election Day rolls around.
The bill includes an “opt-out” provision if an individual decides they do not want to exercise their right to vote. But hopefully that is a provision few will choose. After all, as we like to say here, “no vote, no grumble.”
During the 1960s and 1970s, Kaua‘i led the state with 80% or more registered voters turning out to vote. Politicians paid attention to their voting constituents. Citizen’s complaints were taken seriously, and politicians responded.
But the demographics of our islands have changed, as have the issues. Too often we have opinions about various issues, but do nothing to change things.
This is something you can help make happen. The implementation of statewide vote-by-mail last year was very successful. We need to build on that and make our election infrastructure work more efficiently to give communities everywhere access to the vote.
That includes rural areas where the internet may be slow or nonexistent, or areas where people are struggling with multiple jobs and don’t make voter registration a high priority. That includes predominantly Native Hawaiian communities.
If we want to have more of a say in how your community and our islands are served — if we want good public infrastructure, affordable housing and our special places kept special — tell your lawmakers to support Speaker Saiki in passing AVR.
It will ensure that your address is correct so you can get your ballot in the mail and make your voice heard. AVR will mean less waste because there will be fewer undeliverable ballots. That means less labor and less waste on printing and postage. One estimate is that we could save up to a million dollars per election cycle if we had AVR. We cannot afford to pass up savings of that magnitude.
Lawmakers have a great opportunity here to ensure every eligible Hawaiian has access to the polls and make government more efficient and secure. Please let your legislator know you want them to pass automatic voter registration this year. Now, thanks to changes brought on by the pandemic, you can register to testify via Zoom. I hope you will.
Ted Kawahinehelelani Blake was born and raised in Koloa. He is a graduate of Kamehameha Schools, and attended Orange Coast College, the College of Idaho and the University of Hawai‘i. He is a member of Malama Koloa, Koloa Community Association, E Alu Pu and KUA (Kua‘aina Ulu ‘Auamo) and the Koloa District Community Association.