Popular-vote proposal silences Hawaii’s voice
Hawaii voters risk being side-stepped and marginalized in the approaching presidential election as the state Legislature debates a bill that would auction our four electoral votes off to the highest bidder. Imagine a system where Hawaii's four electoral votes no longer are dependent upon the outcome of the election here in the islands.
Legislators are conspiring to reduce the clout behind Hawaii's electoral power by changing the process by which candidates will receive votes. If those voting in favor of Senate Bill 2898 have their way, then Hawaii voters might give their support to a candidate they did not vote for. Last election Hawaii voted against President Bush and in favor of Sen. John Kerry, and logically the electoral votes went to Democratic candidate Kerry. Legislators wish to change the law governing this process and make Hawaii's electoral votes dependent on the nationwide popular vote, thus side-stepping Hawaii voters. If this were the case in the last election, despite his defeat at the polls in Hawaii, President Bush would have received all four votes because he won the national popular vote.
Those in favor of this new approach argue that the current system keeps presidential candidates away from the state because we do not garner enough votes to be a worthy prize.
By changing the rules of the game, legislators hope Hawaii will be more attractive to candidates visiting and spending campaign dollars here in the islands. This logic is flawed. Rather than give the Hawaii voter more power, they will instead have given control of Hawaii's votes over to the other states whose populations don't represent Hawaii and our needs. Why would a candidate come to Hawaii when he or she can receive our votes by ignoring the state and campaigning in higher density urban areas?
Aside from Hawaii, a switch from the current system to one of nationwide popular vote would create a new game in the election to the office of president. No longer will a presidential hopeful need to become elected by campaigning in key states, but by campaigning to key demographics. Obtaining the majority will become the only cause of importance, and as a result candidates will be able to buy their votes with promises to the majority, only to the chagrin of the minorities who have been marginalized. Urban areas will become the valuable targets of candidates, and as a result rural issues and voters will be ignored.
The popular vote eliminates the possibility of the Hawaii's electorate affecting the presidential campaign. Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed a similar bill that came through the Legislature on the grounds that the new process would no longer represent the voters of Hawaii and their interests. The governor is correct to fear for Hawaii and its voters and to safeguard the sovereignty of the state from those with separate concerns divergent from those off the mainland. Let us support the governor and preserve the right for Hawaii's people to vote for who they wish to; not to be goaded by the whims of the majority on the mainland.
James Gilbert lives in Laie.