We have to do our part to get voter turnout percentage up

Our County

During the 2016 general election, we had 93,912 people in Maui County registered to vote. Of that number, only 56 percent, or 52,972 voters, actually took the time to cast their ballots.

Overall, the state of Hawaii ranked dead last in the nation for voter turnout with 42.5 percent. Those are dismal numbers. Embarrassing, even.

As Maui County voters, we have to do our part this election to get our voter turnout percentage up. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just get out there and vote.

The Maui County Clerk’s Office, working with the Hawaii State Office of Elections, has made it easy for people to register and vote if they so choose. Now you can check to see if you’re registered to vote online at www.elections.hawaii.gov and if you’re not registered, you can register online as well at www.olvr.hawaii.gov.

Even if you forget to register to vote before the election you can still vote. Just make sure you bring a photo ID to your assigned polling site on the day of the primary or general election or at the absentee polling site. It takes a little longer but polling officials will get you registered and ready to cast your ballot that same day.

This year, if you want to walk in and cast an absentee ballot there’s a new location. From July 30 to Aug. 9 you can go to the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center at 395 Waena Place in Wailuku between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and vote absentee. Or, if you’re registered to vote with an absentee mail ballot, you can submit your ballot by 6 p.m. at the close of polls.

Otherwise go to your registered polling place for the primary election on Aug. 11.

There are a lot of excuses for not voting out there. Such as, some people say they won’t vote if it’s not a presidential election year like this one. That’s true, but you’re still voting for a new governor, new Maui County mayor, new council members, congressional delegates and state legislators.

Another bad excuse is not voting in the primary election because the general election is “more important.” Not true.

If you don’t help get your candidate through the primary election, he or she won’t make it to the general election and you won’t be able to vote for them.

Probably the worst I’ve heard is that people don’t vote because the “system is rigged” and all the results are “fixed already.” That’s nonsense.

Candidates spend a good amount of time, energy and money trying to get their message out there to the voting public for good reason. The only way to win is to reach more voters than your opponent does and to communicate with them why you are the better man or woman for the job.

There’s no covert group or cabal messing with your votes. That’s an excuse for the lazy and uneducated. Either that or the person who told you that knows you support a certain candidate and would rather you stay home instead of vote against theirs.

In 1998 the Maui County Council even went so far as to let the voters decide on whether they wanted nonpartisian county elections for the elected positions of mayor and the council, making local voting even less political. The charter amendment was put on the ballot, voters supported it and in 2002 we held the first nonpartisian election for local county government officials.

So, there’s really no good excuse for not voting in both the primary and general elections. Don’t let any excuse keep you from getting to the polls and voting. Exercise your right to vote and cast your ballot.

By the way, if you want to do more than vote this year you can volunteer to work at polling locations and be paid a stipend as well. For more information about volunteering, contact the Office of the County Clerk at 270-7749.

* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column usually appears on the first and third Fridays of the month.

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