The Legislature Should Pass Automatic Voter Registration - Honolulu Civil Beat

About the Author

Piilani Kaopuiki

Piilani Kaopuiki is the current president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii.

Rep. Sylvia Luke and Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz provided an impressive overview of how the Legislature plans to set budget priorities during the 2021 session. All the more disappointing then were their latest explanations for opposing Senate Bill 159, SD1, Hawaii’s automatic voter registration bill.

Luke finds the “opt out” feature of SB 159 — whereby a citizen is added to the voter rolls unless they decline — preys on voters who are immigrants or indigents. This is not true, because though a citizen could register easily, it’s also easily possible to not register.

The voter’s affidavit on the application form still requires a deliberate signature indicating the consent of the registrant. Opposing this automatic voter registration bill because it provides an “opt out” arrangement instead of an “opt in” arrangement implies that the measure is coercive, which is not the case.

Eight or nine years ago when the idea of automatic voter registration debuted at the Legislature, the League of Women Voters supported an “opt in” arrangement. We’re prepared to do so again, but we find no inherent flaw with “opt out.”

The other argument raised was that registered voters would lose control over their personal information. Let’s be honest about the information that is already in your voter registration file. The full name, address, district/precinct and voter status (whether you voted in recent elections) is already publicly available.

All other information may be accessed only for election or government purposes in a formal application to the County Clerk where the applicant attests to its planned use.

Maui County Building, voter box
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii is in strong support of automatic voter registration. Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2020

For example, a candidate running for office can purchase a voter registration list for the district, which would contain this same public information as well as the person’s age and telephone number, making it easy to greet a voter at a certain address by name or make a personal phone call to this voter.

Apparently, this is what happened in an example offered by Sen. Dela Cruz where the voter asked uneasily, “How do you know my phone number?” Knowing the people in a district fulfills the legitimate public purpose of helping political parties and candidates run for public office, but suggesting that privacy rights are jeopardized when you register to vote is misleading.

Some people may already qualify for enhanced confidentiality protection in an address confidentiality program. In SB 159, SD1, information about address confidentiality is to be included with the affidavit completed by the voter, giving applicants who have legitimate safety concerns an opportunity to protect their personal information at the outset of registering.

Automatic voter registration wouldn’t force voters to register, wouldn’t weaken the laws that Hawaii already has in place to protect a voter’s personal information and wouldn’t change how this personal voter information can be used.

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About the Author

Piilani Kaopuiki

Piilani Kaopuiki is the current president of the League of Women Voters of Hawaii.

Latest Comments (0)

.I’m all for automatic voter registration IF (if !!)you qualify for a REAL - ID star on your license.Because if you don’t qualify,you shouldn’t be eligible to vote..

KeoniYamada · 2 years ago

Because of low morality, these changes create more chances for corruption !

CFood · 2 years ago

Until a mechanism for proof of eligibility is imbedded into the system we should hold off on this.  To do otherwise makes the system seem suspect.  There are other mechanisms to get out the vote.  

be_data_driven · 2 years ago

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