A slew of so-called good government bills cleared a critical legislative hurdle this week and are poised for final approval next week. But the measure that arguably would have had the most significant impact on Hawaii’s democracy did not make it across Friday’s deadline for bills to advance. House Bill 1401 would have enacted voting by mail uniformly across all counties for all elections in 2020. Rep. Scott Nishimoto, the lead House conferee on the bill as well as its author, told his counterpart, Sen. Gil Keith-Agaran, shortly after 5 p.m. that both lawmakers agreed on many aspects of the bill. But Nishimoto did not get clearance from House leadership, and so HB 1401 will have to wait until next year.
It’s the third year in a row that a vote-by-mail measure has failed to make it out of conference committee.
Hawaii’s voter turnout is mired at the bottom compared with other states, and lawmakers and good-government advocates have been embarrassed by the distinction.
Testimony in support of HB 1401 came from the state Office of Elections, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the clerks’ offices for all four counties.