Commonsense Election Modernizations

At Common Cause Hawaii, we believe that the more people who participate in civic engagement, the more representative our democracy. Participation can come in the form of service, or testifying on an important issue, but the most important way to get involved is through voting. As the state with the lowest voter turnout, we need to make our elections more accessible, convenient, and secure so that specific needs are given more attention by public officials; needs like producing more affordable housing, securing better healthcare options for kūpuna, and investing in high quality education to benefit our keiki.

Two commonsense election modernizations that could add such an element of convenience are Automatic Voter Registration and Vote by Mail. One is a small technical change to update our opt-in system to an opt-out one, and the other a logical expansion of absentee voting which allows people to vote in the privacy of their own home if they wish. Together these practices can cut out the cost of provisional ballots, sending ballots to the wrong addresses, and allow voters ample time to fully vet candidates and the issues by offering the ballot to voters in advance of Election Day. Both fit into voters’ routines without altering long-standing traditions like voting in person.

Automatic Voter Registration registers eligible citizens to vote anytime they sign up for or renew their driver’s license or state ID unless they opt out. Under Vote by Mail, these same eligible voters receive a ballot at their current address.

With Vote by Mail, Hawai‘i will take steps to increase turnout, improve voter education, and combat fraud. More than half of those who voted in the 2014 and 2016 elections in Hawai‘i did so via absentee ballot, with more votes cast before Election Day proving we are already familiar with both the efficiencies and required precautions of this method. In Oregon where they now vote entirely by mail, election officials have found no indication of increased fraud or undue influence.

Hawai‘i deserves a balanced democracy and constituencies that represent our true demographics to include those who are home bound, voters from rural areas, as well as voters of varying incomes and diverse ethnic backgrounds. Hawai‘i has been a leader in voting reform with the implementation of online voter registration and more recently, same day voter registration. We should maintain this momentum and continue to reduce barriers to voting so we can engage all eligible citizens in the political process. Your vote is one of the most direct ways to build a better Hawai‘i for the generations to come.


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