Hawaii voter registration forms display a logo that reads “Wikiwiki,” meaning quick or speedy in Hawaiian.

But anyone who has registered has found the process doesn’t live up to its motto.

Now, Hawaii might finally be able to make it easier to register — and tackle its dismal voter turnout numbers at the same time.

The Office of Elections is set to get a major upgrade to its voter registration process under a bill just passed by state lawmakers.

The measure, which still requires final approval from Gov. Neil Abercrombie, calls for $500,000 for the elections office to design an online voter registration system. The system would need to be in place for the 2016 elections.

Currently, residents have to either go down to a county office and fill out registration forms in person or print them out from the elections website and mail them in. The forms are available online, but still have to be sent in along with copies of proof of residency such as a photo ID or utility bill.

“Hawaii has been consistently at or near the bottom of all 50 states in voter turnout, and every effort should be made to encourage eligible citizens to participate,” Common Cause Hawaii testified in support of House Bill 1755. “The numbers from the 2010 General Election show that there an estimated 961,213 eligible voters in Hawaii, but only 690,748 registered voters. … Online voter registration can make participation in our democratic process more accessible and convenient.”

A similar push last legislative session was vetoed by Abercrombie.

The governor’s spokeswoman has said the governor supports the concept of the measure, noting that he vetoed the bill last year because it was an unfunded mandate.

In his veto message to lawmakers, Abercrombie said “the estimated cost of implementation is $2.5 million and no funding was provided in the bill. Electronic voter registration can be addressed as the state moves to assess and overhaul the state’s technology systems.”

The county clerks for Hawaii Island, Maui, Honolulu and Kauai — whose offices process voter registrations — supported this year’s bill.

Kauai’s deputy county clerk, Jade Fountain-Tanigawa, testified that “an online voter registration system will modernize registration methods and perhaps encourage younger eligible voters to register.”

Hawaii County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi also wrote in support: “The application to register to vote electronically brings forward the new electronic/youth generation to voting, in lieu of the traditional application by mail or in person.”

Common Cause Hawaii noted the potential for cost savings with an online voter registration system, which it estimates 10 to 12 other states already maintain.

The organization cited a 2010 study by the Pew Center on the States showing that in Arizona, it costs an average 3 cents to process an online application compared to an average 83 cents per paper application.

The study found Washington state saves 25 cents for each application that comes through online instead of manually. The state also estimated that residents saved about $200,000 in postage by not having to mail in voter registrations. (See the full study here).

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