Rep. Gene Ward Introduces HB 1495 – to increase voter turnout


Representative Gene Ward (R-Hawaii Kai – Kalama Valley)  introduced  HB 1495 legislation to increase voter turnout in the state of Hawaii, which in the last election was the lowest in the nation. “We’ve slipped to such a low-level of voter turn-out that only about 32% of eligible voters determine who our leaders will be.  It may just be time to go “down under” for some lessons from Australia where you are fined for not voting; in my bill it will cost you $100 to skip your vote on election day,“ Ward explained. Voting has been compulsory in Australia since 1912 and appears to have reached about 94% voter turn-out in most elections.  For Americans the Australian model has been rather controversial; major arguments for and against compulsory voting are: ADVANTAGES OF MANDATORY VOTING: • Voting is a civic duty comparable to other mandatory duties citizens performed by citizens e.g. taxation, compulsory education, jury duty, the military draft, etc. • Compulsory voting teaches the benefits of political participation • Elected officials may more accurately the “will of the electorate” (than minority controlled democracies) • With mail-in voting becoming increasingly popular, mandatory voting becomes easier • Candidates can concentrate their campaigning energies on issues rather than encouraging voter registration and voter turn-out at the polls • The voter isn’t actually compelled to vote for anyone because voting is by secret ballot. DISADVANTAGES OF MANDATORY VOTING: • It is undemocratic to force people to vote – an infringement of liberty • The ill-informed and those with little interest in politics are forced to the polls and may elect the ‘wrong people.’ • It may increase the number of informal votes • It may increase the number of safe seats for incumbents with low-information voters • Resources must be allocated to determine whether those who failed to vote have “valid and sufficient” reasons.

Contact repward@capitol.hawaii.gov

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