Honolulu | In-Person

If We Love Hawaii So Much, Why Don’t We Vote?

A voter casts his ballot at Kapolei Elementary School in Honolulu. Photo by Eugene Tanner/Associated Press.

A Zócalo/Daniel K. Inouye Institute “Pau Hana” Event
Moderated by Gina Mangieri, KHON2 investigative reporter

By many measures of personal happiness, job satisfaction, and pride in their communities and their state, Hawaii residents rank near the top among all Americans. Yet this doesn’t translate into high levels of civic engagement, particularly as measured by voter turnout. Social science holds that the more fulfilled and connected people are, the more politically and civically active they’ll be, but Hawaii bucks this prediction. It consistently sits near the bottom in participation in national elections—despite having placed a native son in the White House—and it was dead last in voter participation rate for the 2016 presidential contest. Some blame Hawaii’s low participation on the reluctance to embrace mail-only voting. But does the state’s lack of competitive races also dissuade voters from showing up? Do other indices of engagement—a 2016 Forbes magazine story ranked Hawaii 37th out of 50 states in charitable giving, and 48th in volunteering and service—indicate that Hawaii residents are disconnected not only from politics, but from civic life in general? Dean of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy Pete Peterson, director of the Hawaii Government Employees Association Randy Perreira, and Barbara Ankersmit, president of research at marketing and communications firm Anthology, visit Zócalo to examine why Hawaii voters go adrift from elections—and what can be done to turn it around.

Artistry Honolulu
461 Cooke St.
Honolulu, HI 96813
Street parking is available. Valet parking is available for $7.

The Takeaway

Hawaii Isn’t So Beautiful at the Ballot Box

How Did the Aloha State End up Last in the Nation in Voter Participation?

During Hawaii’s early days as an American state, the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye would boast about its high voter participation rate. But since that mid-20th-century high watermark, Hawaii …