Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Sen. Laura Thielen asks the reason for Hawaii’s low voter turnout

by Larry Geller

Anyone interested in Hawaii politics or legislative matters should follow Senator Laura Thielen’s blog.  Check it out.

On Saturday she asked readers to comment on why Hawaii has such a low voter turnout.

Hawaii had record low voter turnout in the Primary Election this year. And we already had the lowest voter turnout in the nation.

If people aren’t interested in voting in this Primary, then clearly we are going to continue with the downward trend of voter participation.

[Sen. Laura Thielen, What Do You Think is the Reason for Hawaii’s Low Voter Turnout?, 8/23/2014]

You can read the complete article and post your comment at the link above.

I think, though, that the best answer can only come when non-voters themselves are polled to find out why they chose not to vote. Most likely, commenters on the blog will themselves have voted. They may theorize about the issue, but in truth, no one can really know why people don’t vote except those who don’t vote. That demographic is also not too likely to be reading Sen. Thielen’s blog.

To figure it out would take a budget to fund a well-crafted public poll.

I’ve written occasionally about the low voter turnout. I don’t know why more people don’t vote, but unless some special interest group comes to Hawaii and mobilizes large numbers of them for a partisan cause, I find myself not too excited, compared to other issues we face as citizens. In other more or less important measures, we are up there: cost of living, length of life, taxation, and so forth.

As long as those who do vote are close to a statistical representation of the whole, it actually doesn’t matter. Consider the election to be a kind of sampling. For example, in the Schatz/Hanabusa Senate race, Schatz won by a narrow margin. Has the turnout been better, wouldn’t the outcome have been the same? Of course, we don’t know that it would, but we have absolutely no way to know that a higher turnout would make any difference (any political science profs out there who can refute this, please do).

Having the shortest amount of instructional time in public schools in the country bothered me a lot more, as an example. Have the highest number of senior citizen deaths on the streets bothers me a lot. Some statistics matter, some not so much.

So please do leave your comments over at Sen. Thielen’s blog, perhaps it will lead to some insight. But the facts will only come out when those who did not vote are asked to tell us why.


Mahalo for posting the link. I just entered this comment:

The current political process has been corrupted by corporate and monied interests to the extent that the regular citizen is alienated from it, or one could say, locked out. Efforts to get people to register to vote and to go to the polls won't succeed (and perhaps shouldn't) until the people first get the influence of money out of politics.

All cultures have some kind of process where we choose someone to represent us at "the big meeting," but the current process is distant from that. This past session, I was standing on the balcony at the Capitol when I wondered, if this is where the people's law is being made, why are there so few people here? You'd think it would be as crowded as a Long's Drug Store. But no, the legislative process has become very distant from the community.

Some points at the local level:

(1) Shopping malls are open nights and weekends. Super markets — and yes, Long's — are open 24 hours. The Legislature (hereinafter "Ledge") is business hours only. Politician's and lobbyist's business hours. There is no real effort to get people involved except to support or oppose particular bills or issues.

(2) Because it caters to corporate interests and lobbyists, the Ledge is very Honolulu-centric. The "government" district and the "financial" district of downtown Honolulu can be considered one district. It's dismaying how outer-islanders have to fly in and find accommodation just to be able to testify or even follow certain bills. If the Ledge is supposed to serve the entire State why doesn't it meet on the outer islands on a rotating schedule?

(3) Although the major action is live broadcast, most meetings and hearings are not streamed or video-recorded. There is no ability to either attend hearings via video or to offer testimony via video. A citizen has to know the process and actually physically be at a particular hearing just to know what's going on.

(4) Politicians know who the lobbyists are, but we don't. I've seen lobbyists testify as though they were just regular citizens at hearings chaired by politicians they have made large contributions to. Neither the lobbyist nor politicians ever acknowledge the fact that they are receiving regular contributions or that they even recognize each other at all. That's acting.

So what can be done to increase citizen participation in politics? Pitchforks and torches. The people have to kick the corporations out of politics and recreate the process. And it's not like corporations are going to willingly leave the house that they built and own.

Just my opinion, and I hope I'm wrong.



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