With all the political huh-bub going on these days, I thought it might be time to explore how Hawaii votes — or, as I’ve discovered, how Hawaii DOESN’T vote. Turns out, in 2014, Hawaii voter turnout hit an all-time low of just 52.3%, even though the actual number of registered voters was about 240,000 more than in 1992, the year of Hawaii’s highest voter turnout when  82.4% of people voted in Hawaii.

So, why the low numbers of Hawaii voters? Turns out, there are quite a few reasons why:

1. Our Laid-Back Attitude: One woman told CNN that politics don’t “flow” in oh-so-laid-back Hawaii. A state representative in Maui said he looks at swell reports before Election Day. If the waves are big, he said, he knows turnout will be low. There are so many Hawaii activities to enjoy, many locals can’t be contained to a polling place!

2. A Not-So-Pleasant History: According to CNN, some Native Hawaiians don’t vote because they believe the U.S. is illegitimately occupying Hawaii. One woman told the news outlet that part of her identity as a Native Hawaiian would be diluted if she cast a ballot.

people voting at a polling place

Photo: Alex Lee

People in Hawaii tend to be skeptical about outsiders, especially the government. So, it's no surprise that many are distrustful of polling places and procedures.

3. Time Difference: By the time November rolls around, Hawaii is six hours behind Eastern Standard Time. So, by the time our polls close, the next president has typically already been declared.

4. We’re Basically a One-Party State: Democrats have ruled Hawaii for decades, and many races even run uncontested because a Republican can’t be found to enter. We recently had a Republican governor (Linda Lingle), but haven’t seen a Republican in the seat since.

5. National Politics Seem Removed: For better or for worse, Hawaii is a pretty insular place. And, that means we tend to ignore national issues and, especially, politics. Now that there are some real contentious personalities in the race (Trump, Clinton), we may see a higher voter turnout. However, in general, people in Hawaii tend to pay attention to things that impact Hawaii. And, some here believe we beat to our own drum, shall we say.

6. Voter Obstacles: Things have recently changed to make voting easier in Hawaii, and this year, voters can even register online to vote in Hawaii. But, before, many people felt confused about how to register.

Linda Lingle was the first Republican to be elected governor in Hawaii since 1962 and the first female governor of Hawaii.

7. Trust: According to CNN, during the primary election in 2012, some polling places opened an hour and a half late because voter registries hadn’t been delivered to the polling stations. Similar scenarios make it hard to gain the public’s trust, especially in a place that has lost trust in the U.S. before.

8. Schools Need To Do More: I have three children in the public schools here, and not one of them has come home talking about the upcoming election. Why not? Hawaii schools need to do a better job educating our children about politics, so they’re more invested in voting when they’re old enough.

Hawaii voters have strayed from the polls over the past, but this year’s election is shaping up to be pretty exciting. So, I for one, am counting on a big turnout this November!


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