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More Polling Stations Needed For Rural Areas

CO-041614-FaleRichard

Richard’s Roundtable …Rep. Richard Fale

According to CNN, Hawaii had the nation’s lowest voter turnout in 2008 and tied West Virginia in 2012 for last place in that category.

A recent article in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser also shined light on the lack of voter participation here in Hawaii. Turnout has declined significantly since statehood in 1959, when participation stood at 94 percent, compared to 42.3 percent, as reported in 2012. We can and should do better to encourage voting and increase it for our elections. Our government, after all, is a reflection of those who willingly and actively participate in it. Simply put: “No Vote, No Grumble!”

Beyond encouraging our eligible family and friends to register, we also need to get registered voters out to the polls on election day. Absentee ballots and early voting provide opportunities to cast ballots besides on election day.

Employers are required to allow employees time off to vote on election day, as well. But access to polling locations continues to be a challenge here in Hawaii.

To help address this, I introduced House Resolution 133, requesting the Office of Elections to seek additional state funding to re-establish polling places that were closed in 2010 and 2012, or provide reasonable alternative polling sites to districts in which such removal has occurred. The governor also is requested to give his full support to equal access for all Hawaii voters.

In 2010, 97 polling places were closed because of budget shortages, and in 2012 even more were closed, including locations on the North Shore and in Koolauloa communities.

The reduction of polling places disproportionately affects voters living in rural and Neighbor Island districts, increasing distance and wait times while decreasing incentive to participate.

This is contrary to our system of government. All citizens need to have equal access to polling places so they can have an equal voice in selecting our elected officials.

With our state’s financial house slowly stabilizing and our governor identifying ways to spend a possible state surplus, I believe the restoration of those closed polling sites is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to increase voter turnout so Hawaii no longer ranks No. 1 for lowest turnout in the nation.

While we wait for the consideration to restore closed polling places, I hope we all can do our part to encourage voter registration and participation. No matter the cause, the political party or the candidate you support, your vote helps build a stronger, more accountable government.

We are fortunate to live in a country that affords us this right, and I hope this election year – and in elections in the future – we all do our part to make sure more of Hawaii is voting.

Call state Rep. Richard Fale, R-District 47 (Waialua to Waiahole) with questions and concerns at 586-6380, or email him at repfale@capitol.hawaii.gov.

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