On June 30, Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed legislation into law that will eventually allow same-day voter registration, first at absentee polling places beginning in 2016, and at all precinct polling places on Election Day starting in 2018. Lawmakers hope the adoption of HB 2590 will improve Hawaii’s abysmal voter turnout. Allowing same-day registration in other states, including Connecticut and Colorado, has boosted voter turnout. Other studies have shown election-day registration can increase turnout between 7 and 14 percentage points. Hawaii has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation, with just 44 percent of eligible voters actually casting ballots in last year’s presidential election, even when local boy Barack Obama was on the ballot.
“Our system of government depends on individuals exercising their right to vote, one of our most cherished duties as citizens,” Abercrombie says. “I applaud members of the Legislature for advancing HB2590 in the interest of removing barriers to voting, and I support the measure as long as it can be achieved from a sound technical standpoint.”
The legislation’s passage is encouraging, although state elections officials don’t know exactly how many voters who have actually been turned away at the polls because they weren’t registered.
One thing is clear; voting in Hawaii hasn’t made waves. So how did we land at the bottom of the list?