Hawaii voter turnout in general election slumps to all-time low

Written by Mileka Lincoln on November 5, 2014


HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Newly released data shows that voter turnout in Hawaii is at a record low, according to the Hawaii Office of Elections.

In Tuesday's general election, 706,890 people were registered to vote, but only 52.3 percent of those registered actually cast ballots, making that the lowest statistic on record for a general election. The second lowest year was 2006, when 52.7 percent of the 662,728 registered voters casted ballots.

In looking at voter turnout rates dating back to the 90s, voter turnout was at its peak in 1992, with 82.4 percent of the 464,495 registered voters in Hawaii.

"As a U.S. citizen it's the most important right that we have," said Hans Brown, who voted yesterday.

Keoni Hughes did not. "I guess I'm too young to actually care."

Experts say because the state is such a Democratic stronghold, many people don't vote because they don't believe it affects the outcome -- others because they don't like who they have to choose from.

"If people are saying, 'I don't vote because there's no one that inspires me' then what can we do to include more people in the pool of candidates and encourage more people to run for office," said Carmille Lim, Executive Director of Common Cause Hawai'i.

"Sometimes people just don't really get excited or interested in the election until right before it happens -- and in that case it's too late to register. So one thing, one easy fix I'd like to see the state do is same-day voter registration," explained Hawaii News Now political analyst Colin Moore.

Political analysts say voting is a learned behavior that needs to start at an early age so our keiki believe their voice matters.

"One of the purposes of Kids Voting and We Vote Hawai'i originally was to encourage the young people -- our children -- to influence the adult voter turnout. It was called the trickle-up effect, because we felt if the kids were talking about what is happening in school and in life than maybe the parents would take it seriously," said Lyla Berg, the founder of Kids Voting Hawai'i."

Officials say nationally, only 20% of youth voted in this year's mid-term elections.

"If you don't vote than you shouldn't have a say in anything," said Vaimoana Atonio, who did not vote.

"It's really important for me to make sure that the choices made for Hawaii are from the right people," described Glenda Supnet who did vote.

Experts say voter turnout was at its peak in 1992 -- when an impressive 82.4% of Hawai'i's registered voters cast a ballot.

"It's shameful that Hawai'i used to be one of the highest in the nation when it came to voter turnout and to see us really fall as far as we have is really embarrassing and it's just not right and it's going to take a community to fix that," said Alexander Santiago, the Program Director for "No Vote, No Grumble".

Political analysts say mid-term voting turn-out is traditionally low across the Nation.

'Voting gives democracy its legitimacy -- even if you don't know exactly who you support. I think knowing that you're going to vote makes you learn about this, so that helps but also this is your responsibility as a citizen. I think even if you vote no preference for every single candidate that's better than not voting at all," said Moore. "How low does it have to go before we can't even really say that our candidates have true democratic support? I don't know, I hope we never have to have that conversation, but I think we're getting dangerously close."

Office of Elections voter turnout numbers since 1990:

Year

Registered voters

Turnout percentage

1990

453,389

78.1%

1992

464,495

82.4%

1994

488,889

77.1%

1996

544,916

67.9%

1998

601,404

68.6%

2000

637,349

58.2%

2002

676,242

57.0%

2004

647,238

66.7%

2006

348,988

52.7%

2008

691,356

66.0%

2010

385,464

55.8%

2012

705,668

61.9%

2014

706,890

52.3%

Office: Common Cause Hawaii

Issues: Voting and Elections

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