Local Connection: Voting Right - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Local Connection: Voting Right

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By: Rick Blangiardi

It's hard to believe that Hawaii's election participation used to be among the best in the country as recently as the 1960s, just after the passage of statehood.

By the year 2000, we finished at the bottom. Even with native son Barack Obama running for president in 2008 and re-election in 2012, our turnout was about 49 percent and 44 percent of the voting-eligible population. Dead last. Not even number 50 but number 51, when the District of Columbia is included.

What's happened over the years? Lots of things. Networks call presidential races earlier and earlier, leaving local voters believing they don't have a stake in the outcome.

In non-presidential years, there are other problems: polling places have a history of dysfunction and there's no same-day registration despite legislative bills calling for it.

Online registration is supposed to be mandated by 2016 but we'll see. Oh, and Hawaii is essentially a one-party state. Where are the choices?

Well, this year, at least, we have signs of excitement. We have competitive U.S. Senate and Congressional races on the Democratic side. We'll have a legitimate Republican contender for the first Congressional district.

And the governor's race offers a host of choices, including a Democratic challenger to an incumbent governor, a former GOP lieutenant governor and an independent candidate who used to be mayor of Honolulu.

Still not excited? Then get excited. Or pull papers and run for yourself if you don't like the choices.

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