Danny De Gracia: Take A Deep Breath And Consider All The Angles Before Voting - Honolulu Civil Beat

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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.

Opinion article badgeMail-in ballots for the August 13 primary election have already started to arrive for many residents.

The choice of which party primary one chooses to participate in, as well as the candidates that make it to the general, can potentially influence the future of our state in a big way.

But before local voters jump into their mail-in ballots and send them off, I’d like to share some strategies to approaching this election in a thoughtful way that leads to the best possible outcomes for our community.

The first rule: Don’t rush your vote.

So you’ve just received your ballot in the mail, what do you do now? The first thing you should do is think before you vote. Instead of the pressure of standing in line to vote, mail-in ballots give you time to go through all the contests at your own pace. When it comes to voting, remember that “slow is smooth; smooth is fast.” Don’t rush your vote and mail your ballot too soon – you might end up changing your mind before the cutoff date.

The first thing that I do when I receive my ballot is create a mockup ballot on the side to write down notes about the candidates. Even if I prefer a particular candidate, I won’t finalize the vote in ink on the real ballot until the very last minute. If I don’t know that much about a candidate, the first thing I do is check out election guides and candidate Q&As, followed by the candidate’s website, if they have one.

One of the advantages of voting in Hawaii is that this is a small state, and many of the candidates on your ballot are responsive to social media, email or even phone calls, so you can also ask candidates questions you have about the issues that are important to you to aid in making your final decision.

Voter Service Center as a person votes using the electronic voting machine located at Honolulu Hale. August 6, 2020
When you vote by mail, you have plenty of time to do your own research before filling in the blanks. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Rule Two: Don’t Let Mass Endorsements Bewitch You

Local candidates collect special interest group and high-profile personality endorsements like 1980s kids collected fun stickers in Trapper Keeper notebooks. A maladaptive voting pattern is to say, “Wow, look how many endorsements this person has, they must be really great or really successful.”

In reality, these political endorsements are meaningless because the organizations that have been driving the primary elections’ choices for decades are so secure in their political silos that they haven’t been responsive to our individual or collective community needs.

A better approach to putting the “sticker” of approval on a candidate is to consider their performance in prior elected office (if applicable) or what they did in their career or in the community.

Immediate red flags for me are what I call a “synthetic candidate” – a person who parachutes into an election out of nowhere, suddenly supported by multiple establishment or big money interests, who appears popular only because they have special interest foot soldiers putting up their signs or walking the community for them, instead of their own volunteers. That type of candidate usually means trouble.

Last but not least: Know there’s a lot at stake in this election.

There’s an ancient story about a thief who stole from a king and was condemned to death, but bargained that if the king spared his life, he would teach the king’s favorite horse to speak within one year. The king granted his request, much to the surprise of the thief’s companions, who knew he had no such power. “You see my friends,” the thief privately explained, “there’s a lot that can happen within one year. The king may die, I may die, or, the horse may speak.”

Many Hawaii candidates and incumbents are like that thief, making promises they know they can’t deliver just to buy time for themselves, so remember actions speak louder than words. Politicians may make many promises, but it is up to you to determine which ones can and will actually make good on them. In short, Hawaii, it’s up to you.

Rule Three: Read And Think Big

I like what former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said: “If you don’t read, you can’t lead.” One of the best ways to be a better voter and to transform the way you see the world is to develop a lifestyle habit of reading and learning new things – not just opinion, politics or news. Reading or even listening to audiobooks aids neuroplasticity (the ability for your brain to adapt), helps your brain age better, and ignites creativity and the imagination, all of which are things we need in a democracy. Some studies even say reading amplifies empathy.

Reading diverse content gives me more things to consider when I’m filling out my ballot. Instead of just being a dull, single-issue voter, I find myself having a more strategic perspective. I just finished reading a trilogy of books by Chinese author Cixin Liu called “The Three Body Problem” series, which I highly recommend that all Hawaii voters read as it raises very stimulating questions about cultural baggage, political hubris leading to disaster and most importantly, human choices.

Last but not least: Know there’s a lot at stake in this election. The environment, the economy, jobs, health care, even the housing market in the islands could all be imperiled by who we elect or don’t elect. We saw the fallout of bad leadership in times of crisis during Covid-19 – this is something that should better inform how we approach the choice of our next elected leaders. Could your choice in this election stop the next major crisis? Think about it.


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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)

All good points Danny. 4th rule. Don't vote for a particular party just because it has a D or an R. Look at each candidate and what they truly stand for to include voting records if they are incumbents. I am conservative both fiscally and socially, but I have voted for democrats due to a strong fiscal stance. Wake up Hawaii. Now!

Stopthemadness · 4 months ago

There is another rule that needs to be pointed out, adding to this very good article by Danny. That is "find the candidates that are actually doing the work to get your vote". Related to the "synthetic candidate" who has proxy's doing their sign waving and walks through the neighborhood, one should look at whether there is any effort being made by the candidate to keep their name in your mind. Early on in the election season, way before the filing deadline, candidates for office who wanted to be seen and known were putting up visual collateral and setting up their plans to make sure their name was out there, recognizable and most important favoured by the electorate. This effort is noted by those who endorse, which gives resources to candidates, especially during this time when the ballots are out and, for the most part, the attention level of voters is about the highest it will be. So, one other thing to look for is whether the candidate on the ballot has really been working to get your vote. Or are they the candidate that only likes to see their name on a ballot for self-affirming reasons. Or worse, that this is a passion project because they think it's cool.

Kana_Hawaii · 4 months ago

Love Danny's "rules", especially the one about reading. However, it is not the Civil Beat reader that is the problems as they are obviously reading this article. The problem is how do you get this message out to the other 99% of the population that do not read such articles and that only have a superficial understanding of all the political issues and angles?

Gull · 4 months ago

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