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