America was founded on liberty and the right to have a say in who will represent us in a democratic government designed to serve us - a "government of the people, by the people and for the people" as referred to by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address.
This right, as free people, is a right to vote, and it did not come easy. Many fought, sacrificed everything for or even died for this right that some take for granted or, worse, discard.
You might be surprised how many do not even register to exercise their right to vote in Maui County. While officials at the state Office of Elections do not keep the number of eligible voters, they referred us to the 2010 census data and suggested looking at the number of individuals age 18 and older.
From the 2010 U.S. Census, American Community Survey data for 2010, it appears that Maui County has approximately 119,106 eligible voters (based on males and females age 18 or older, without deducting for those ineligible to vote for felony crime convictions or unable to vote for medical or other reasons). In the 2010 general election, only 85,223 (71.5 percent of the approximate eligible population) registered to vote, meaning 28.5 percent threw the opportunity away.
Further, reports for Maui County from the state Office of Elections show that of those who registered to vote in 2010, only 49.7 percent actually did. This means that 78.2 percent of eligible voters did not vote. How can we have a government representative of the people, if 78.2 percent do not vote? We cannot!
The first step comes in educating eligible voters about the importance of voting and that voting is not only a right, it is also a duty. Each of us can do this by talking with family, friends, co-workers and associates and asking if they have registered to vote.
We are asking businesses to increase voting in Maui County by: putting voter registration applications in paychecks, discussing the importance of voting at employee meetings, having the applications available in break rooms, etc.
All can help by distributing voter registration applications or directing people to hawaii.gov/elections, where the voter registration application and other important information is available. The registration deadline is July 12 for the primary election and Oct. 8 for the general election.
Second, let us work together to eliminate excuses. If people say that are unable to vote (during the primary election on Aug. 11 or in the general election on Nov. 6 because they will be out of town on election day, let them know that they can vote absentee and still get their ballot in. The primary absentee application is due Aug. 4, with the general election absentee application due by Oct. 30.
If someone says, "I don't vote because I don't have a way to get there," offer to give them a ride, get them a ride, or vote absentee. If they do not feel that their vote makes an impact, explain how important it is to elect people who represent their views and the impact elected officials have on each of our lives and our community. Remind them that voting holds elected officials accountable for their actions. It also helps keep us free. While many of us have not personally fought for the freedoms we enjoy, the men and women in our armed forces still do. We need to honor them by exercising our right to vote.
Help by getting involved and encouraging others to vote. To have 78.2 percent of eligible voters in our community not voting is a disgrace.
* Pamela Tumpap is president of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.