A measure that will allow voter registration on election days beginning in the next election was signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday.
HB2590, introduced by South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing, will allow voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016 and late voter registration at polling places on election days, beginning in 2018.
"Our system of government depends on individuals exercising their right to vote, one of our most cherished duties as citizens," Abercrombie said. "I applaud members of the Legislature for advancing HB2590 in the interest of removing barriers to voting, and I support the measure as long as it can be achieved from a sound technical standpoint."
South Maui Rep. Kaniela Ing speaks with Gov. Neil Abercrombie on Monday after he signed into law a same-day voter registration measure that was introduced by Ing. Rep. Karl Rhoads looks on.
Office of the Governor photo
The League of Women Voters-Hawaii and Common Cause Hawaii applauded the measure becoming law.
These changes will make it more convenient to register to vote in Hawaii, the League of Women Voters said in a news release.
"By this action, voters in Hawaii will be able to go to the polls in increasing numbers, thus changing the pattern of low voter turnout of recent years," said the group's president, Ann Shaver. "Experience has shown that same-day voter registration is also effective in getting younger voters to the polls."
In 2012, only 30 percent of Maui County registered voters, 25,702, cast ballots in the primary election and only 56.8 percent, 48,915, turned out to vote in the general election. The percentages were the lowest of any county in the state.
Common Cause Hawaii, a nonprofit that aims to improve the state's political process and to hold government accountable, said that same-day voter registration has led to increases of an average of 10 percentage points in turnout in other states.
"Increased citizen participation in the lawmaking and electoral process makes for a more robust democracy, and current technology makes it easy and economical to remove arbitrary deadlines, permitting registration when the candidates have debated and voter interest is typically greatest," said a Common Cause news release.
"We have witnessed a steady stream of cases from our highest court giving artificial corporate entities and a tiny minority of wealthy citizens more and more power to influence our elections," said Carmille Lim, Common Cause Hawaii executive director. "It's important for us to do all that we can at the state level to facilitate broad citizen participation in our democratic process."
Ing also received kudos from the League of Women Voters.
"Representative Ing's leadership on this issue was key to the bill's passage, and we are pleased that we had such a strong ally in the struggle to make voter registration more accessible in our state," said Shaver.
Hawaii joins 10 states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-day voter registration, said the League of Women Voters.