Same-Day Voter Registration Bill Heads to Final Conference
By Wendy Osher
A measure that would provide a process for the public to register to vote at polling sites on election day will be heard in a final conference committee on Friday, April 25, 2014.
Representative Kaniela Ing of Maui who introduced the bill noted that Hawaiʻi has the lowest voter turnout in the nation and said, “It’s time we end this shameful distinction and foster a stronger public voice. There are all kinds of reasons people do not vote; arbitrary registration deadlines should not be one of them.”
House Bill 2590 would allow voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016; and late voter registration, including on election day, beginning in 2018.
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 at 56.8% — including a 35.9% precinct and 21% absentee turnout.
Ing provided updated estimates, citing national studies as a source, saying the measure in its current form is expected to increase voter turnout in Hawaiʻi by an estimated 5-8%, and voting among 18-25-year-olds by 7-9%.
“Many young people only had one or two election cycles to contemplate registering, yet by the time they are engaged and informed enough to make a sound decision, it is too late to register. These are people of whom today’s policy decisions will impact for decades to come,” Ing said in a media statement.
Opponents to a similar bill introduced by Ing last year claimed such a measure would create a window of opportunity for voter fraud, and claimed it was based on the assumption that Hawaiʻi’s low voter turn-out is linked to the deadline for voter registration. Others at the time pointed to “political apathy” as the real reason for low turnout.
Among those who have voiced opposition, include Senator Sam Slom, and testifiers who claim that the bill would not only increase voter fraud, but also overwork poll workers, according to Ing.
According to information released by Ing’s office, there are currently 11 states and the District of Columbia that have already implemented same-day voter registration.
Ing said the measure is a part of larger “elections modernization plan” to help reduce problems that the elections office has faced in recent years.
“This program will take effect at the same time of a new state-wide database, electronic pollbooks, and online registration. It’s about making elections relevant to the modern world,” said Ing who called it a “win-win” measure in a press release statement.
The item surfaces for final discussion in conference committee at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25, 2014, in room 325 of the State Capitol.