More than 700,000 people had registered to vote as of Friday.
That’s about 10,000 more voters than 2010 and 2008, state officials say.
UPDATE: The deadline to register is Monday. The Office of Elections and City Hall will be accepting forms until 4:30 p.m. Forms can be mailed, but should be postmarked by Saturday because Monday is a federal holiday and there’s no postal service.
Rex Quidilla, spokesman for the Office of Elections, said that the office is not doing anything differently to improve voter registration compared to 2010. Because Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, other organizations have been working to get people to the polls.
In the 2010 general election, the Office of Elections reported registering 690,748 people. The last presidential election year, 2008, attracted 691,356 new registered voters.
This year, voter registration is already up to 703,000 three days before the deadline.
Quidilla said the increase reflects popular interest in this year’s issues and candidates.
“More than any kind of administrative measures … what really drives voter turnout and registration is personal decisions to engage in the electoral process,” Quidilla said. The office has been criticized in the past for not being more active in encouraging people to vote.
Several organizations have been working to pull Hawaii up from the bottom of the voter turnout list. Kanu Hawaii and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have collectively registered about 4,000 voters, officials with those organizations said.
Civil Beat reported last month that nonprofits were actively involved in improving youth voter turnout. In 2008 fewer Hawaii youth ages 18-25 voted than anywhere else in the nation — only 31 percent compared to 51 percent.
James Koshiba, founder of Kanu Hawaii, estimated that the nonprofit has registered almost 2,000 voters as of Friday. The organization has partnered with No Vote No Grumble, Common Cause and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on several initiatives to reach youth and other underrepresented groups.
Their efforts have involved passing out registration forms in classrooms, canvassing districts and reaching out to friends through social media.
Joe Lewis, the Youth Outreach and Engagement Coordinator at OHA, said that while OHA has always worked to increase Hawaiian voter participation, this year is different — the office launched an expanded effort in mid-June to get out the vote, targeting young Hawaiians.
Unlike previous years, the organization is advertising on the radio and TV, hosting events on college campuses, and is even canvassing Hawaiian neighborhoods.
“This is kind of unprecedented for OHA to go door-to-door so it’s kind of exciting,” Lewis said. “We feel like the grassroots effort is necessary to mobilize our beneficiaries.”
And it looks like it’s working.
“We registered 2,300 people already in just three months,” Lewis said.
Lewis said the impetus for the campaign was the Native Hawaiian community’s historically low voter turnout rate.
“We are looking at the younger Hawaiian to break that trend,” Lewis said.
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