Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Hawaii ties for worst
state draft rate

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Hawaii climbed out of the cellar this year and no longer has the worst draft compliance rate among the 50 states and four island territories.

That distinction now falls to the Virgin Islands with only 60 percent of its young men reaching the age of 20 registering for the draft this year.

Although Hawaii climbed two percentage points this year to 75 percent, it was tied with Louisiana for having the lowest compliance rate among the 50 states.

North Dakota had the highest compliance rate with the Selective Service System with 98 percent of eligible men registering. It was closely followed by South Dakota, Maine and New Hampshire with 96 percent. New Hampshire was last year's leader at 95 percent.

However, Ed Nakano, field director for the Selective Service System in Hawaii, believes the number of young men registering for the draft may get even higher thanks to a new state law that passed this year with little fanfare, but will automatically place a young man in the Selective Service rolls when he signs up for a driver's learner's permit or license.

Federal law requires every male citizen between 18 to 25 to register with the Selective Service System.

Twice a year Nakano sends out postcards to young men turning 18.

This year Nakano worked with the state Department of Education and guidance counselors in every state high school to reach the estimated 5,000 men who are celebrating their 18th birthday.

Nationally, the rate of American males signing up for the military draft before reaching their 19th birthday climbed by 4 percent to 87 percent, the highest it has been in a decade.

Nakano pointed out that beginning Jan. 1 any male in Hawaii seeking a driver's learner's permit or driver's license must agree to register for the military draft.

"If he refuses," Nakano said, "he will not be issued a permit or driver's license."

Nakano said it will be up to the four counties to transmit this list to the Selective Service System and the federal government has agreed to cover the cost of this information transfer, about $5,000.

Failing to register is a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, although there has not been a prosecution in years.

But Nakano said there are greater ramifications.

"The Legislature passed this law this year because it realized the long term consequences for failing to register. If a guy fails to register before he reaches 26, he is barred from applying for a federal job.

"A young man who is a permanent resident, but fails to register before he turns 26 will never be allowed to apply for citizenship in the United States."

College students who aren't registered for the draft cannot qualify for federal student loans or grant programs.

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