Readers’ Ideas To Fix Low Voter Turnout
I was gratified by how many of you, my lovely readers, responded to my challenge to offer solutions for Hawaii’s low voter turnout.
I have to reiterate that I did not ask why you think people don’t vote, or why you yourself didn’t vote. Plenty of you told me anyway. I appreciate your feedback, all of it.
For those of you who did respond to the challenge, double thanks. I appreciate your willingness to be part of a discussion.
I selected a few of your replies to kick off the conversation. They range from the seemingly simple to the very complicated:
Toni Baran: “Someone suggested that Election Day be designated as a day off from work for folks to vote.
“What better way to honor our military service ohana than to make Veterans Day, Election Day?”
Frank A. DeSilva: “Maybe a step in the right direction would be to abolish all political parties and have individuals run for political office on their own merits, with strict campaign spending limits and full disclosure for any outside ‘contributions.’ Maybe then we’ll see better voter turnouts.”
Tim Slear: “Solution: mail-in ballots and limits to how many offices you can run for in a lifetime — e.g., MUFI.”
This emailer gave me his name but preferred not to have it published: “How about getting businesses to offer a discount on things like theatre, food, shows, etc. for anyone who showed proof that they voted. For example, maybe Burger King would give you a free drink when you show them any proof that you voted. This would not only encourage everyone to vote, but it would be a great advertising tool for businesses, since most people would order other things while there.
“Another suggestion would be to have some type of drawing where the winner(s) could win, for example, a trip. This could take place at any major shopping center. This would be a win-win for everyone.
“Things have changed over the years and unless we give people a incentive, I’m afraid that this trend of low voter turnout will continue.”
That emailer was not the only person to suggest we incentivize voting. I have to give kudos to reader Dathan Choy, who obviously has given the problem of low voter turnout a lot of careful thought. He, like the man above, thinks carrots work better than sticks, and greed works better than punishment:
“Your article mentions punishment as a form of behavior modification. I think rewards work far better,” Choy says. “Clearly our problem stems from apathy, as the state has made it increasingly easier and easier to register and to vote. It’s time we start appealing to people’s baser instincts and dangle a reward that’s only possible via educating oneself about voting and then actually voting.”
Here’s the rest of Choy’s email: “How do we improve Hawaii’s dismally low voter turnout? With cold, hard cash.
“My plan goes like this:
* City and counties of their respective islands, the state and nonprofits come up with a combined $20,000, which is evenly split between the primary and general elections.
* That money is then split into 10 $1,000 prizes to be distributed in a random lottery.
* People enter the lottery by first voting and then taking a basic political knowledge test. If they pass that test with, say, an 80 percent correct score, they are then entered into the lottery.
* The first three $1,000 prizes are distributed one per week in the three weeks before the primary election by early voting. The names are then published in the newspaper and broadcast on the news and social media to remind people about the lottery and the election. The remaining seven $1,000 prizes are then distributed to seven voters who voted on primary election day.
* The general election follows the same timeline: three prizes in the first three weeks before the general and seven on general election day.
* Note: This would only be applicable to in-person voting, as absentee voters are far more likely to vote in the first place and are not the primary concern of the low voter turnout. The test and lottery would of course be optional.
* The political knowledge test would have simple question such as:
Republican Governor Candidate Duke Aiona was previously:
A) Lieutenant Governor
B) Navy Captain
C) State Prosecutor
Ballot Initiative (____) is related to:
A) State Bonds to fund (some activity)
B) Raising Taxes
C) Childhood Education
“The questions would be entirely separate from the voting process and in no way act as a barrier to voting.”
While I can’t say whether or not the plan is feasible, I like that he combines two problems here: voter apathy and ignorance.
Choy thinks his plan would produce more voters and more informed voters. Two birds, one stone.
Mahalo to all of you who took the time to respond. I hope this conversation doesn’t end. Let’s keep it going in a positive and productive way.