Danny De Gracia: There's No Excuse This Year For Not Voting - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Mail-in ballots for the Hawaii primary election have already started to arrive for some residents in advance of what was supposed to be a Tuesday launch date. And while the experience of an all-mail election may be new for some in the islands, this actually leaves us without any excuse for not stepping up in our civic duty.

I get it that Hawaii residents, historically, have busy lives and very little free time, because they either have exhausting occupations or work multiple jobs. That the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Hawaii as one of the most sleep-deprived states shows that time is of the absolute essence in the Aloha State. That’s fair enough reason for some who are overworked to possibly miss a primary or two.

In previous years, one had to plan in advance to vote in a primary — either by voting early, registering for an absentee mail-in ballot, or by requesting time off. It could reasonably be argued that for some, participation in a primary in previous years could be a little bit of a hardship, especially if they were juggling work, parenting, caregiving and any number of other life issues.

Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi holds a sample of a Mail in ballot during press conference held at Honolulu Hale.
Honolulu City Clerk Glen Takahashi holds a sample of a mail-in ballot. The primary election this year will be held with an all-mail voting system. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

But in 2020, locals have no excuse for not participating in the primary election with an all-mail voting system. Residents have been given a political take-home exam that affords them ample time to carefully read the ballot, study each of the contested races, deliberate over their choices and even change their minds if necessary before casting a vote.

With a mail-in ballot, we have removed all of the time pressures of looking at crowded contests – such as the Honolulu mayor’s race, for example – and having to quickly make a knee-jerk decision before the long line of people waiting at the polling location behind you gets antsy or upset.

I once volunteered at an election site on the Windward side of Oahu, and I watched a local voter give up and quit on Election Day simply because there were no pens available. Another decided to bug out simply because the line was too long. Problems like these are completely eliminated now in Hawaii, and the only “pressure” that exists is the pressure to be a good citizen and mail your vote before the deadline.

The beauty of a mail-in ballot is that — like a take-home exam — you can start on it, take a break, fill out more of it later and use the benefit of time to make the best, most informed choices. And just as it is inexcusable not to get an “A” on a take-home exam, Hawaii voters should have no reason not to vote for the very best choices in this primary.

No longer should anyone have to randomly pick names from contests where no one is recognizable, either. With mail-in ballots, every person has time, even with a busy work schedule, to go on the internet and research candidate positions, visit campaign websites, compare response surveys or even read Civil Beat’s election guide to find out who best fits their worldview.

How To Do Your Voting Homework

As a conservative, I vehemently disagree with my peers who think mail-in voting is somehow bad. Even before Hawaii mandated mail-in voting, I’ve been voting absentee mail-in for years, and I’ve never had any complaints with the process. Mail-in ballots are the best because they give you time to think, and thinking is always good.

The strategy that I use with my ballot is I create a private markup sheet with all of the contests and I pencil in tentative votes for all the people that I support, as well as brief notes on candidates for comparison.

I then wait as long as possible to turn in my ballot so that it gives me time to track the issues and where the candidates stand on them, and if a candidate does something that is concerning, it gives me space to amend my vote before the deadline.

Honolulu Hale early voting general election as people line up to cast their ballots. 4 nov 2016
Voters stand in line at Honolulu Hale in 2016. With mail-in voting, there’s no pressure to hurry and make rushed choices. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

For crowded contests where candidates are very similar, I like to create a shortlist of priority policies that are important to me — not more than five — and I numerically score candidates based on how strongly they address each policy.

This year the priority policies influencing my vote are COVID-19 response, economy, crime, homelessness and government reform. I then use a colored pencil to draw a chart on my markup sheet to represent the scores, and whichever candidate has the best policy spread gets my vote. (You can also do this in Microsoft Excel if you’re lazy. And yes, I really do this.)

Hawaii residents need to stop being left behind by not participating in primaries. I’ve heard all the excuses not to vote, and none of them are valid now. Too busy? Then complete the ballot a couple of days at a time. Don’t know who to vote for? Go online and research it. Not inspired? Grab an energy drink or strong cup of coffee and push yourself to start filling out as much of the ballot as you are able to.

Every single one of you should take the time this week to ask your family, friends and co-workers a simple question: “Did you vote?” And until the answer you get is “yes,” keep asking them that question. It’s never been easier to vote in Hawaii, so let’s get the job done!

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About the Author

Danny de Gracia

Danny de Gracia is a resident of Waipahu, a political scientist and an ordained minister. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views. You can reach him by email at dgracia@civilbeat.org or follow him on Twitter at @ddg2cb.

Latest Comments (0)

voting is so passé. How else would you explain C&C primary voter turnout of 82.9% in 1959 vs 38.6% in 2018?Nah, it’s not ‘pens unavailable’ or ‘line too long’; it’s something more fundamental than that

Frank_Rizzo · 2 years ago

For the 2018 elections I answered the call to count absentee ballots.  The absentee ballot counting process has so many checks and balances - witnessed first-hand - that fraud is not only unlikely - but stupid.First - your returned ballot is checked for a signature.  No signature - ballot rejected.Next - signature not matching?  (Did you remember to return your signature card mailed to you a few months ago?). Mis-matched signatures are flagged and NOT counted.Next - matching signatures?  Yes?  Submitted ballot goes through a multi-step process to be counted.  Each step of the way trained personnel (from registered parties) observe each step to ensure each ballot is processed according to documented standards.Mail-in ballot voter fraud trouble you? Perspective please!  Do you verify each and every product your eat or drink? NO?  Maybe you should! 

Soul · 2 years ago

I agree, I think mail in voting is a good way to try and get the voters in Hawaii to participate.  But, thinking of the fraud that could happen.  I received two ballots that didn't belong to me, one person was dead, and the other lives on the mainland.  I know of others who received ballots that didn't belong to them.  I hope this doesn't open up the window for a lot of fraud.  

LindaU · 2 years ago

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