The Insider Survey offers a look at Hawaii's political culture from those on the inside. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin asks a group of 75 lobbyists, legislators neighborhood board chairmen to comment on issues of the day.
This month, the insiders were asked if Hawaii has a problem with voter turnout, and if so, what should be done about it. The insiders are offered anonymity in their responses, but they are encouraged to allow their remarks to be attributed. The names of those who participated in the July survey are included below the story on this page.
Q: For two elections in a row, Hawaii has had the nation's lowest voter turnout percentage. Does Hawaii have a problem? If so, what can be done to get more eligible voters to the polls?
» "Hawaii's voting turnout or lack thereof is shameful. Too many eligible Hawaii voters seem to be thinking, 'Why bother? Elections always promise change, but the more things change, the more they stay the same. Politics -- bah, humbug.'
"What is happening now -- absentee voter ballot applications being sent automatically to thousands of homes -- could make a big difference. Excellent idea."
Bette Tatum, lobbyist
» "Hawaii has systemic issues that skew the turnout numbers downward; including a high transient population and also a sizable homeless population that have difficulty voting."
Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo)
» "Our citizens are disaffected and really don't believe their participation will make a difference.
"Until people understand and embrace the direct link between their civic participation and their level of satisfaction with local and state policies affecting their families, voter turnout percentages will not change."
Kelly Rosati, lobbyist
» "Eliminate the 30-day voter registration deadline and allow people to register and vote on election day. Also, voters should be able to maintain their absentee ballot registrations beyond each election, and a well-funded voter education program should be conducted."
Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kahala-Palolo
» "Some incumbents, candidates, special interest groups prefer low voter turnout, particularly if they benefited most by it with a reliable voting base within those who do vote.
"The least costly way to increase voter turnout is converting to a mail-in ballot system."
Neighborhood board chairman
» "I have worked as an election official for several elections and there are several factors that impact on our turnout ... for national elections, we are voting after most TV stations have called the election. Some people complain about the nonpartisan election and want to know what party the mayor and City Council represent.
"The elections people work very hard to advertise and run the elections, but I think more money is needed to advertise and send a sample ballot to the voters. Maybe a drawing for a 'Lucky Voters go to Vegas' contest would work."
Neighborhood board chairman
» "Creative measures should be considered to increase voter participation: A mail-in election would be very convenient, and I believe could improve voter participation."
Sen. Will Espero (D, Ewa-Ewa Beach-Kapolei)
» "I predict we will have an improved turnout this fall due to the contested U.S. Senate and congressional races.
"If the voters are educated and they perceive a clear choice, and I think they will get that in the Senate primary, a renewed spark of interest should emerge."
Jack Hoag, lobbyist
» "There is a feeling that an individual's vote is close to meaningless in the face of the powerful influence of campaign contributions."
Laure Dillon, lobbyist
LEGISLATORS: Sen. Russell Kokubun (D, Hilo-Naalehu), Sen. Willie Espero (D, Ewa-Ewa Beach-Kapolei), Sen. Fred Hemmings (R, Lanikai-Waimanalo), Sen. Les Ihara (D, Kahala-Palolo), Rep. Barbara Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head)
LOBBYISTS: John Radcliffe, Kelly Rosati, Bette Tatum, Carl Takamura, Robert Toyofuku, James Kuroiwa, Andy Chang, Laure Dillon, Jack Hoag, Charles Toguchi
NEIGHBORHOOD BOARD CHAIRMEN: Bob Finley (Waikiki), Bob Chuck (Kuliouou-Kalani Iki), Mike Abe (Kaimuki), Lester Muraoka (Hawaii Kai)