Hawaii is a unique and special place known for its mountainous vistas and pristine beaches, but the Aloha State has another reputation of which I’m less proud.

Hawaii consistently ranks last in the country when it comes to voter turnout. Amongst eligible voters in Hawaii, only 43 percent completed a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.

Our elections should be accessible for everyone who is eligible to vote. Such low turnout rates suggest that this is not the case. When voters have to cast their ballots in-person on a work day in the middle of the week, we exclude so many hardworking citizens from having their say in our elections.

People cast their votes at Nanaikapono Elementary School located at 89-153 Mano Avenue in Waianae, Hawaii. 4 November 2014. photography by Cory Lum

Election Day at Nanaikapono Elementary School in 2014. There would still be centers for traditional voting should vote-by-mail legislation become law.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

We must look for ways to make our elections more accessible, convenient, and cost-effective for all potential voters in Hawaii. The legislature is considering proposals to modernize and update our archaic voting process, chief among them: Vote-by-mail legislation currently at the Hawaii Legislature would establish a mail-in system uniformly across all counties for all elections.

With this process, every registered voter receives his or her ballot in the mail ahead of the election. This would empower all registered voters to make an educated vote and cast a ballot in the manner of their own choosing.

Election Modernization

Voting by mail is an inclusive election modernization that establishes a limited number of voter service centers, accommodates voters with special needs, and offers same-day registration and voting, while creating additional places of deposit for personal delivery of mail-in ballots.

It does not do away with or replace in person voting like some reports have asserted. It has a proven record of success in other states, and has broken down logistical barriers to voting across the board while saving states money (in Hawaii, the Office of Elections estimates $750 thousand per election cycle could be recouped). No longer would a sick child, pressing work commitment, or lava flows like we’ve seen here in Hawaii, interfere with voters’ election plans.

As a letter carrier, I can attest to the popularity of voting by mail firsthand.

The U.S. Postal Service has been rated our nation’s trusted and highest rated federal agency by the Ponemon Institute’s annual privacy survey and the December 2017 Gallup Poll. As an important institution in our democracy, the postal service is committed to free and fair elections. With vote by mail, the Postal Service would be a proud partner in making sure that our democracy works for us all.

I’ve been a letter carrier for more than 26 years. Part of my duty has been to help citizens engage with the world around them and one of the most important ways is through the ballot.

During each election cycle, the U.S. Postal Service makes sure that each postal worker is trained to properly handle election-related mailings, from accepting ballots for mailing all the way to delivering completed ballots. We come prepared to provide secure and timely service.

I can attest to the popularity of voting by mail firsthand. With more than half of all ballots cast already being done by mail, extending this method to a statewide initiative for the benefit of fair and more representative elections just makes sense.

Adopting vote by mail statewide can make it so that every Hawaii voter has a chance to be heard!

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About the Author

  • Michelle Hee
    Michelle Hee is a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service and has been an active member of the National Association of Letter Carriers for 26 years. She currently serves as the president of the Hawaii State Association of Letter Carriers and NALC Local Branch 860 shop steward.