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.
Articles about voting issues in Hawaii.
Already, nearly half of people who vote in the state do so by mail. “This bill would change the way we vote in Hawaii in an attempt to increase voter participation and reduce costs,” Rep. Chris Todd, D-Hilo, wrote in a Facebook post. “HB 1401 would mean every registered voter receives a ballot in the mail and mails it back in — this process is already available by request, but this bill would make it the norm.” The bill passed third reading and House conferees were appointed to iron out wrinkles. Voters could still cast ballots in person if they prefer. But long lines at polling stations would presumably become a thing of the past. Each eligible voter would be mailed a ballot prior to an election and asked to mail it back.
Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation, according to a recent study released by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project. And that’s not a new distinction. The 2016 “America Goes to the Polls” report reveals this is the fifth presidential election in a row in which the state has ranked dead last for voter participation. According to the study, approximately 3 out of 5 eligible voters in Hawaii did not cast a ballot during the last presidential election. The voter turnout rate for the 2016 presidential election was 43 percent. How does that compare to other states or the rest of the country as a whole?
Dale Kobayashi is still smarting. Six months after narrowly losing a state legislative race to Rep. Isaac Choy, the longtime Manoa resident wishes Hawaii had a recount law on the books. Kobayashi lost to Choy in the Democratic primary in August by 70 votes out of more than 5,400 votes cast. Choy won with 47.6 percent of the vote compared with 46.4 for Kobayashi. “When a race is so close, you want to double-check the count,” Kobayashi said Wednesday. Kobayashi, the son of Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, is already planning to run again in 2018. And if the race is close again, Kobayashi just might get that recount — if a bill making its way through the Legislature this session becomes law.
Hawaii: Lawmakers to again consider vote-by-mail system, automatic voter registration | Hawaii News Now
Last legislative session, two bills aimed at addressing Hawaii’s low voter turnout failed to clear a final hurdle. Not even lawmakers can explain why. “We may not have felt we had the money to do that at this point,” state Sen. Karl Rhoads said. “Then there are people who just don’t think it’s the right move.” The proposed measures would have set up automatic voter registration and transition the state to mostly mail-in ballots. They’ll be introduced again this year. And Common Cause Hawaii is already gathering support for both bills. “People are even more concerned about making sure that their voices are heard and their votes are counted,” executive director Corie Tanida said. Both bills are aimed at addressing Hawaii’s chronically low voter turnout. Hawaii’s turnout in November was 58 percent, down from 62 percent four years earlier.
More than a thousand absentee ballots mailed in for the general election were not counted. Despite lingering questions about the process, elections officials will once again push for an all mail-in election. When Always Investigating looked into ballot irregularities for the primary election, we found out several hundred ballots were invalidated over missing or mismatched signatures. For the general election, that more than doubled. Despite that rate, all-mail-in voting is a real possibility. This week, the Hawaii Elections Commission prepares for its first meeting since the election to go over what went right and wrong. The agenda includes an all-mail initiative they’re backing at the Legislature again this year.
The death of one of Hawaii’s congressmen has led to an unusual ballot and voter confusion in urban Honolulu.
The rare double election means residents in the 1st Congressional District are selecting someone to fill the late U.S. Rep. Mark Takai’s seat for the two-month unfinished term and someone to represent the district for the next two years. Takai died in office last July. The situation could lead to two different people winning the same House seat on election night, to serve the two different terms. Former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is one of the candidates. The Democrat is hoping to return to her old seat in Congress, which she gave up to run for Senate two years ago.
A federal appeals court is upholding an earlier decision to support the way Hawaii holds its primary elections, rejecting the Democratic Party’s desire to exclude non-Democrats from advancing candidates to the general election. The Democratic Party of Hawaii had challenged the state’s open primary system where registered voters can choose any party’s ballot to cast their votes without formally joining the party. Party leaders wanted to limit primary elections to formal members or people willing to declare their allegiance, because they said the open primary system allows people from opposing parties to influence their party’s candidate selection. Judge Wallace Tashima of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said it was up to the Hawaii Democratic Party to prove that problem exists. But he said in an opinion Monday the party didn’t provide evidence that opponents are determining the Democratic Party’s election outcomes.
Hawaii voters will be asked who should serve out the remainder of the late Mark Takai’s term in Washington — possibly on the same day they decide who should represent the 1st Congressional District in the next term starting in January. A special winner-take-all election will most likely be held in conjunction with the Nov. 8 general election, according to the state Office of Elections. But the winner of that special election will only serve for two months — from Nov. 8 until the current session of Congress wraps up on Jan. 3, 2017. The Aug. 13 primary will go on as scheduled, as will the general election. Takai died Wednesday in Honolulu at the age of 49.
The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the the method the state Elections Office used to order an insufficient number of ballots in the 2012 general election should have undergone an official rule-making process instead of just being an internal management decision. The Green Party of Hawaii sued Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and the state in December 2012, asking the courts to stop him from conducting another election until there were new rules in place to prevent the type of voter disenfranchisement that occurred that November. In all, 24 precincts ran out of ballots on Election Day, leading to long lines and some voters abandoning the effort. The lawsuit says 57 voters were denied the right to vote, and ballots had to be rushed to dozens of other precincts that ran low.