Maui County Council Vice Chair Keani Rawlins-Fernandez. Image courtesy Maui County.

by Keani Rawlins-Fernandez

Hawai‘i’s move to vote by mail (VBM) is critical in maintaining democratic inclusion in a place that consists of communities scattered across many islands. For this process to be successful, it is equally important that the legislature enact Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) in 2020 to augment VBM’s effectiveness, to ensure that it does not decrease voter accessibility when we are working to increase it.    

Voting should not be a hardship for people. It is my hope that the State Office of Elections and Maui Clerk’s Office will spare no effort to inform and educate the public in this first year. Everyone needs to understand that we are making a dramatic switch from the past practice of having polling stations in precincts. Over half of our electorate already vote by mail, but for those who have enjoyed going to their neighborhood polling station, it is important to know that their polling station will NOT be there as usual. It is also important to ensure the first-time voter will not be disenfranchised. 

VBM and AVR working in concert would not only save us all time, money, and grief; it would also increase voter integrity and minimize ballots being sent to the wrong addresses. AVR will help clean up the voter rolls every time one goes to renew or get a new driver’s license or file a change of address, unless one opts not to have that information automatically passed on to the Office of Elections. 

For now, please check that your information is accurate by going to Elections.hawaii.gov. The Maui County Clerk’s Office announced that it will have a voter service center on each island (Maui, Moloka‘i, and Lana’i). The voter service centers will receive personal delivery of mail-in ballots, accommodate voters with special needs, offer same-day registration and voting, and provide other election services. Voter service centers are where voters can register and drop off ballots, if it’s less than five days before the election or if the voter registration deadline passes. Individuals who aren’t registered can register at a voter service center, which will be open from July 27 through August 9 for the Primary Election, and October 20 through November 3 for the general election. However, I urge the Maui County Clerk’s Office to provide more voter service centers and ballot drop-boxes, to ensure a smooth transition and to ensure that all voters have the opportunity to vote. 

Keep a watch for notifications that are being mailed to you by the Office of Elections or the Maui County Clerk’s Office to confirm addresses, and tell everyone you know about the new system.  When you receive your ballot in the mail a few weeks prior to the primary election on August 8 and before the general election on November 3, be sure to cast your vote. Your vote matters and our community’s well-being depends on it!

Councilmember Keani Rawlins-Fernandez (Moloka‘i) is vice chair of the Maui County Council. Community members interested in writing opinion editorials for MauiTime can contact Axel Beers at editor@mauitime.com.

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