Bill to Increase Voter Turnout Heads to Final Committee

March 26, 2013, 2:06 PM HST · Updated March 26, 10:42 AM
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Maui election booths, file photo by Wendy Osher.

Maui election booths, file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Wendy Osher

A house bill that would provide a process for the public to register to vote at polling sites on election day heads to its final committee this week.

House Bill 321, co-introduced by Maui freshman Rep. Kaniela Ing, is aimed at increasing the state’s low voter turnout.

The state recorded a 61.9% voter turnout in the 2012 General Election — including a 33.5% precinct and 28.4% absentee turnout.  In the 2012 General Election, Maui’s voter turnout was even lower with a total turnout of 56.8% — including a 35.9% precinct and 21% absentee turnout.

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In a committee report, Judiciary and Labor Chairman Clayton Hee cited testimony from the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii, whose representatives stated that election day registration has been shown to increase voter turnout by 10-12%.

Those opposed to the bill say it creates a window of opportunity for voter fraud, and is based on the assumption that Hawaii’s low voter turn-out is linked to the deadline for voter registration, which falls 30 days in advance of elections.

At least one opponent pointed to “political apathy” as the real reason for low turnout.

Scott Nago, the state’s chief election officer, submitted testimony in support of voter registration on election day.  In response to concerns about voter fraud, Nago said, “Hawaii’s voting system has built-in checks and balances to prevent voter fraud from occurring.”

According to Nago’s testimony, any registered voter, “rightfully in the polling place on election day, may challenge the right of a person to be, or to remain registered as a voter in that precinct, on the basis that: (1) the voter is not the person he/she claims to be; or (2) the voter is not a resident and therefore not entitled to vote in that precinct.”

The Senate Ways and Means Committee deferred action on the measure until 9 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27.

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