In a blog post last week, we wrote: “Believe me, you really don’t want to be that guy who waits in line for an hour on election day only to get turned away because you can’t register on the spot.” That remains true this year, but things might change for the next election cycle if our state lawmakers approve a bill that would allow for same-day voter registration. If the proposal gets passed, the initial phase of implementation would begin in 2016. While county clerks who administer voter registration and polling places voiced some concerns about logistics such as staffing, the state Office of Elections has been openly in favor of the bill because of its potential to increase voter registration, which has been persistently low even when local voters had the opportunity to vote for a Hawaii-born president.
Unfortunately, the state doesn’t keep statistics on how many potential voters are turned away on election day because they aren’t registered. But by allowing voters to register on the spot on election day or at an absentee walk-in location, lawmakers expect that voter turnout could increase by 5 to 8 percent. For younger voters aged 18 to 25, they expect a 7-9 percent increase.
Those estimates are based on 11 other jurisdictions that allow same-day registration, as well as national reports.
State Rep. Kaniela Ing (D-Kihei, Wailea, Makena), the bill’s introducer and, at 25, one of those younger voters, issued a press release yesterday that pointed out that in the 1960s Hawaii had the highest voter turnout. Now we’re dead last. “It’s time we end this shameful distinction and foster a stronger public voice,” Ing stated.