Chair Keith-Agaran, Vice Chair Rhoads, members of the House Committee on Judiciary,
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports HB 343 which would provide for Election Day Registration.
Section 1 of this bill gives good reasons for enacting this bill. As it states, citizens of this State do not have an absolute right to vote. Even the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee citizens the right to vote. It is implied in the federal constitution in different amendments. Amendment XV . Section one states that the right of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Amendment XIX states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. But nowhere does the Constitution explicitly give all citizens the right to vote.
This was glaringly illustrated in the 2000 and the 2004 Elections, when because of the tight presidential race, the Florida vote was the crucial determining vote. With the media spotlight aimed nonstop during the weeks when all of the problems of the Florida electoral process were exposed, a very distressing revelation was that of thousands of citizens purged from the voter rolls because their names were so similar to the names of felons or ex-felons. These citizens went to the polls on Election Day only to be turned away.
With Election Day Registration, this injustice would have been corrected instantly.
The Hawaii State Constitution states in Article I, Bill of Rights, Section 1, “All political power of this State is inherent in the people and the responsibility for the exercise thereof rests with the people. All government is founded on this authority.“
But that political power of the people must have an avenue for expression if it is to be realized. That avenue is through the inherent right to vote as expressed by our constitution – the right to elect our representatives to government at both the legislative and executive levels---those representatives that best represent our interests. Without the power of the vote, we cannot exercise our political power nor our responsibilities as citizens of this state.
Section 1 of this bill states that “this right to vote should not be hindered without just cause,”and goes further to state that barriers to the exercise of this right should be removed and citizens encouraged to exercise this right.
One of the barriers mentioned is the 30-day voter registration requirement. Certain occurrences -- a conversation, something one reads, the appeal from a candidate, interest in a ballot issue -- may make a person realize that he/she needs to vote. But the registration deadline has passed, and here we have a lost opportunity to ingrain in someone the habit of taking part in one of our democracy's citizenship obligations.
The expressed fear of fraud is more of an excuse to disenfranchise a whole group of people. Individual fraud is almost nonexistent, and organized fraud involving individual campaigns and other groups are more easily detected.
With our very low voter participation rate and the poor standing of our public education system, Hawaii suffers from the image of a nonvibrant, backwards society. We need to do everything we can to get our citizens involved in the solution of our problems. If Election Day Registration brings more people to the polls, that would be a good start.
We urge you to pass HB 343. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on behalf of this bill.