Chair Ige, Chair, Vice-Chair Kidani, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports HB 2590, HD1 SD1 that allows late voter registration for future elections beginning in 2016 and polling place voter registration beginning in 2018.
The League has been promoting voting and elections modernization for some time. We are excited that Act 225, passed in 2012, will permit online voter registration beginning in 2016. Online voter registration is a very efficient “automated” approach toward voter registration, which will greatly reduce the demand for in-person registration. Nevertheless some people do not drive and other people wait until an election is imminent to register to vote so this bill is still needed.
We think by 2016, our County Clerks could devise a system for permitting people to register to vote at absentee walk polling places, using the guidance provided in this measure. There are a limited number of absentee walk sites in our State and these sites generally have access to the statewide voter registration database and personnel well enough trained to serve as “registration clerks” authorized by this bill. Our understanding is that by 2016, the State Office of Elections will have upgraded their statewide database in accordance with Act 225, making it possible for a clerk to check whether a person is already registered to vote.
Regarding late voter registration at polling places, we think 2018 is a realistic date for planning this
change, which we wholeheartedly support because of the likely bump up in voter turnout (however
modest). Prior to 2006 in the six states that permitted voters to register on Election Day plus North
Dakota (which has no voter registration), turnout is 10 percent to 17 percent higher than the national
average. Minnesota estimates that registrations that occur on Election Day account for five percent to ten percent of voter turnout.1
Experts have also projected substantial voter turnout increases in states that are considering adopting registration at polling places, including Hawaii. In a 2011 study, overall turnout here was estimated to go up by 5.3 percent. Turnout among those aged 18 to 25 could increase by 9.2 percent, and turnout for those who have moved in the last six months could increase by 7.3 percent.2
We do not think additional proof other than a self-affirming affidavit and other procedures outlined in
Section 1, (b) (2) of this bill should be required of voters who are registering in person on Election Day,
because Hawaii already has well-established procedures for challenging the identity, residence or other
aspects of a voter’s legal registration. Importantly, pursuant to HRS 10-3.5 a person who knowingly
provides false information on this registration affidavit may be guilty of a Class C felony, punishable by up to five (5) years imprisonment and/or a $10,000 fine.
Certainly we also support all efforts by our County Clerks to keep our voter registration records accurate and up-to-date. Many registrars have made this task easier by using proven electronic databases like The Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) to match public records databases across many types of databases and many states.3
Implementing this bill will require an ongoing financial commitment from both the State and the Counties. But, we think this will be a relatively modest commitment. In fact, in mid-February the Office of Elections provided a budget estimate showing a $407 thousand appropriation would be necessary for the State to implement the polling place registration. We defer to the Office of Elections on how much of this appropriation is non-recurring startup cost and how much is per election cycle ongoing cost.
For the absentee walk-in registration, we defer to the Counties on this cost. One estimate made by the Office of Elections is the ongoing cost is $100 thousand per election cycle. As stated above, staffing
absentee walk sites for 2016 and beyond should not require additional County trained personnel. Polling
site temporary “registration clerks” who are well trained will be needed. If the County Clerks continue to
have doubts about volunteers in these positions, temporary hires can be trained and used. This is a
modest investment, for big returns in ease of voting.
Passing the bill now will allow both the Office of Elections and the County Clerks to carefully plan for the 2016 and 2018 rollouts described in the bill; we know careful planning has been a critical ingredient in the success of Election Day registration in other states. We support gradual investment in modernizing voter registration and we are very confident the 2016 and 2018 milestones are achievable.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.
1 National Conference of State Legislatures, February 19, 2013.
2 Alvarez, R. Michael and Jonathan Nagler, “ELECTION DAY VOTER REGISTRATION IN HAWAII,” Demos, February 16, 2011.31 National Conference of State Legislatures, February 19, 2013.
3 Developed by the Pew Charitable Trusts and IBM, ERIC uses several databases to compare voters across state lines. The system compares voter list data with Department of Motor Vehicle records, Social Security Administration records, the Postal Service’s national change of address registry and other databases to match voters across state lines; if the system concludes with a high degree of confidence that a John Doe on one state’s voter roll is the same John Doe in another state, the record is flagged.