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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Monday, February 25, 2002


Gambling on getting
voters to the polls

I don't know if we should put gambling on the ballot in this year's election but I think we definitely should put gambling with the ballot.

I say we turn the election into a statewide free lottery where a few lucky residents win gobs of money simply for exercising their constitutional right to cast a vote.

I got the idea from a proposal currently knocking around the Thailand parliament to set up such an election lottery in order to woo more voters to the polls. Admittedly, Thailand generally doesn't come to mind as a shining beacon of electoral democracy. In fact, its history of campaign corruption is breathtaking both in the depth of the entrenchment and zeal of the participants. The vote-buying industry apparently is a major contributor to Thailand's Gross National Product, just behind Advanced Water Buffalo Development and Diversified Drug Warlord-Related Agriculture.

Nevertheless, you gotta give the country its due: Bribing people to vote with a lottery is a great idea.

Abe Lincoln said that "ballots are the rightful and peaceful successor to bullets," which, in his case, seems a bit ironic. But he had a point. Free elections are what makes America great.

What makes it not-so-great is the fact that only half of the country's eligible voters vote.

In Hawaii it's even worse. In the 1998 election, only 49 percent of the state's eligible voters voted. That was considered a pretty good turnout in these parts where generally only 4 out of 10 residents bother to get off their okoles and vote.

Most Hawaii residents say they don't vote because they don't think their single votes count, especially in presidential elections. That's disgusting, considering how the fate of the last presidential election rested on a handful of votes in a small state like Florida. Imagine if a national election outcome gets down to Hawaii and ... well, that's never going to happen, so forget it.

But in the last gubernatorial election, Democrat Ben Cayetano squeaked by Republican Linda Lingle with a 5,000-vote margin. As I've pointed out before, that means if Lingle had gotten only 2,501 more votes, she would have won. Now, consider the fact that more than 400,000 eligible voters -- 400,000! -- DIDN'T vote in that election and you can see how pathetic we, as members of a democratic state, are.

Who would have won if those 400,000 lard-butts had bothered to vote? Who knows. But it behooves a democratic society to find out.

That's why I say we bribe people to vote. Set aside a million dollars in state election funds to create a lottery. Everyone who votes is eligible for the drawing. With hundreds of thousands of new voters, races would be thrown wide open. Politics as usual would be history. And a few lucky -- if previously lazy and reluctant -- patriots might hit the jackpot.




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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