Voting is the foundation of democracy, but here in Hawaii too few people are registered to vote, and too many registered voters sit on the sidelines when it comes time to make important decisions.
When voting rates are some of the lowest in advanced democracies we should be working to reduce barriers to voting and increase voter turnout. We can start by logically expanding the absentee voting method to a statewide vote by mail system.
Studies find that states already voting by mail see increased engagement and Hawaii has experience to support this: the US House vacancy election in 2010, and the special vacancy elections conducted by the City & County of Honolulu in 2009 and 2010, were done entirely by mail and yielded high voter turnout.
The League of Women Voters, together with Common Cause Hawaii, and Hawaii News Now support a simple, secure, and effective plan for this expansion. A few weeks before Election Day all registered voters will receive a ballot in the mail, allowing them time to research the candidates and the issues at their convenience, and make informed decisions without the pressure of a long line behind them. Once completed, ballots are mailed to County Clerks in a prepaid secrecy return envelope to be tallied electronically so no one has to know how you voted.
Safeguards to verify voter identity and defend against voter fraud will remain intact, along with Voter Service Centers for those who need assistance and for those who prefer to vote in person.
Voting by mail reduces the high cost of maintaining, storing, and transporting aging voting equipment and supplies to so many polling places; while eliminating the need to recruit and train thousands of volunteers for state elections—small changes with a big impact. The Office of Elections estimates this will save Hawaii $800,000 dollars every election cycle.
Voting means we all have a say in how we are governed, but in the 21st century voting does not mean we have to line up at the polls.
League of Women Voters: We need your voice at the legislature advocating for the safety, efficiency, and convenience of voting by mail. Call your legislators to show your support right now. To learn more, click here.
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