In 2016, Hawaii had the lowest turnout of any state in the county and did not have laws that made voting accessible. In an important step in the right direction, this session Hawaii joined Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as the fourth state to enact vote-by-mail (HB 1248). Vote-by-mail has been shown to increase voter participation, which is crucial in making Hawaii’s elections more fair and free. Vote-by-mail will take effect in 2020. 

Hawaii also passed legislation (HB 168) to make voting more accessible for individuals with special needs by allowing them to receive their ballots electronically.

While these measures should improve voter turnout, more can still be done in Hawaii. While Democrats control the governor’s office, state House, and state Senate, a number of bills that would increase voter participation did not advance this session. Those proposed measures include allowing eligible incarcerated individuals to vote (SB 1503), enacting automatic voter registration (SB 412SB 116HB 1203), increasing absentee ballot accessibility (SB 963), making voter registration easier for high school students (HB 1545), and expanding the vote to 16 year olds in state elections (HB 1280).

We hope Hawaii legislators will push these initiatives forward in the next session in order to improve Hawaii’s voter turnout and make elections more democratic.