Hawaii is widely known for being a laid-back state, and we’re pretty proud of that reputation — you know, in a low-key way. We know that it rains, but that we can always go find the sun someplace, we know that when the sand disappears in the winter it’ll be back in the summer, and we know that when election results roll in, we’re always blue.

With that kind of certainty, it’s easy to feel like we don’t have anything we need to do. Our votes don’t matter, a Democrat will always be elected, right?

Hawaii used to be one of the highest states for voter turnout, but in the 2016 election, we were dead last.

Not only were we last with 43 percent of ballots cast, but the state with the second-lowest turnout, West Virginia, beat us by over 7 percent. This wasn’t a fluke, it was the fifth presidential election in a row we’ve earned the distinction.

Voters wait for the chance to cast their ballots at the Manoa Elementary School polling place in November 2014.

Brian Tseng/Civil Beat

Now of course we swung blue anyway, but there’s more to voting than who gets to be president. The senators and representatives we choose, the council members, etc. — they make a huge difference in our day-to-day lives, and they can have a profound impact on the country as a whole.

I was raised in a political household on the Big Island. We waved signs, we marched in Fourth of July parades, all of that. But when I left home, I no longer felt nearly as connected with politics. I felt like there wasn’t really any point in knowing much of anything about the candidates, because they were all going to be Democrats, right? Who has the most enthusiastic sign-wavers on the side of the road? That’s my guy.

Not All Democrats Are Created Equal

I remember talking with my dad before Election Day one year, and I said something like, “Oh, I don’t know, I’m not really paying attention to who is running, I’m just going to vote for whoever my boyfriend votes for.”

I have never disappointed my father more than in that moment. I had lost sight of how my vote does matter — and not just my random vote for the candidate with a “D” behind their name but my informed vote. A vote for someone who not only shares my values, but who will work tirelessly to defend them, even if that fight seems to be already lost. Not all Democrats are created equal.

The need for a diverse range of experiences, voices and opinions is critical.

Plus, voting is a basic tenant of our democracy and who we elect can set a strong example. Making sure communities are represented by people who look like them. The year 2018 has been called the “Year of the Woman.” We are seeing more women, and more women of color, stepping up and running for office. The need for a diverse range of experiences, voices and opinions is critical.

Not every Democrat will go the extra mile and defend their constituents with legislation proactively protecting their rights. Not every elected official will rise to the occasion to hold nominees accountable to their record, to press them on how they will represent the values of people like you and me, and to believe victims when credible accusations are made against officials and actively elevate their voice.

I want progressive, energetic representation that tackles the issues that matter to me — health care, homelessness, Native Hawaiian rights, education — with new solutions that might actually work, rather than the same old tried-and-failed tactics that have caused these issues to remain stagnant, or even get worse rather than better.

I want candidates who understand and listen to communities most affected by the decisions being made in government, and actively bring them to the table to lend that perspective. Or even better, I want to cast my ballot for people who come from those communities. There’s only one way that I can get that kind of representation — to do the work, and vote for it.

We are 21 days out from Election Day. I plan on making my Dad proud. I would urge you to get out there and make your voice heard.

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