Chair Taniguchi, Vice Chair Takamine, members of JGO Committee,
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii strongly supports SB 654 which provides 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, it states, is the 30-day voter registration requirement. This, according to some, should really not be considered a barrier because citizens are given ample opportunity to register and it is their responsibility to register and not wait till it is too late. But who really understands all of the stresses that people experience in their lives. These are not ordinary times. If anyone expresses their desire to vote because of any sudden interest in in the current election, why not give them the opportunity. We may have started them on the path to a more active citizenship.
As I have stressed in all my testimonies of former years, fraud arising from opening up registration opportunities is a minor problem where individual fraud is concerned. Organized fraud involving individual campaigns and other groups are more easily detected. The fear of fraud used as an excuse in tightening up registration laws is often aimed at disenfranchising certain groups to take away their
rights to vote for representatives to government of their own choice or to keep them from voting on certain ballot measures.
We urge the passage of SB 654, the Election Day Registration Bill.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify in support of this bill.