The general election on November 8, 2016, is coming up; and to make your voice heard, you must be registered to vote. The deadline to register is Monday, October 10 at 4:30 p.m. Registering to vote is incredibly important but it is just the first step. Casting your vote is making your voice heard about who you want to represent you, your home, your family and the issues that are important to you. During the general election, Maui County residents will not only be voting for the President of the United States, but for U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Hawaii Resident Trustee and Maui County Council.
Maui County is a vibrant and beautiful place filled with passionate residents who love their home and care about the issues that affect it. However, this is not always reflected in our voter turnout. According to the State of Hawaii Office of Elections, during the last general election in 2014, only 52.7 percent of registered voters in Maui County voted. In the 2016 primary election only 29.6 percent of registered voters cast their votes. But the statistics show that voter turnout has not always been so low in Maui County. In 1992, 81.3 percent of registered voters cast their vote. These numbers raise some questions; why is voter turnout in Maui County so low? And why does casting your vote matter?
“I think it’s just been this long process in America in general where the majority of the people feel disconnected from the government, and don’t feel like they have a say or a voice in what happens,” said Mike Ryan, Lecturer of History at UH Maui College. And it is understandable how voters could feel this way, especially in Hawaii. Due to time zones, the results of the Presidential Election are often announced before the polls in Hawaii are even closed, which leads Hawaii voters to question, “Why even vote?” The answer is local government. “For the President [election] that is so far beyond anything we have influence on, especially in Hawaii.” said Ryan, “But this local election is so important.”
Individuals who are elected to be a part of our local government will directly influence the issues that affect our community, such as affordable housing, sustainability and development. “It really makes sense for us to vote now and to understand who’s running the island now in order to vote in the right people,” said Bianca Ragan, member of the Maui Young Democrats, “These changes are going to affect us when we are 30,40,50.” As members of the community we need to seek out and vote for candidates who share our vision for Maui County. “In order to vote you have to have a stand on an issue,” said Ryan, “You have to believe in something.”
So how do you learn more about local candidates? Maui Young Democrats hold candidate forums where members of the community can meet candidates and ask them questions. “We are trying to get young people out to see who our candidates are,” Ragan said, “Because once you go to one event you start to realize that these people have faces, they have opinions and they are trying to change things.” Ryan has also created a website, mrhistory.org, that he hopes students and community members can use as a resource to learn more about local and national elections. “If you want people to actually vote they need to be educated on what they are voting for,” Ryan said, “and if people aren’t interested in that, that’s a problem.”
As residents of Maui County, local government should be important to us, because Maui County is important to us and we care about its future. The candidates that are elected in the 2016 general election will be a part of making decisions that will affect all of us and our futures. Registering to vote is the first step, but becoming educated about the candidates, passionate about the issues and casting your vote is truly something you can be proud of. Our voice does matter and together our community can make a difference.
To register to vote online visit olvr.hawaii.gov. To register to vote in person visit the Maui County Clerk’s Office at 200 S High St # 708, Wailuku, HI 96793. If for some reason you miss the October 10 deadline, you can register to vote and vote at the same time during Early Walk-In Voting/Late Registration from October 25 to November 5, 2016 at the Maui County Clerk’s Office, but you cannot vote at the polls. To learn more about Maui Young Democrats visit http://www.goydhi.org/ or check out their Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MauiYoungDems/?fref=ts.