A measure that advocates say will make it easier than ever to register to vote in Hawaii cleared a key hurdle Wednesday at the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 159, which makes an application for voter registration part of all state identification card or driver’s license applications, was passed out of conference committee. It now awaits a final vote from the full House and Senate.

The bill’s passage appeared to be in doubt when Rep. Sylvia Luke, chair of the House Finance Committee, expressed concerns earlier this session that, in part, confidential voter information might be misused.

But on Wednesday, House Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Chair Mark Nakashima said Luke agreed to the automatic-voter- registration legislation.

Kirsten Nygren, 54-128 Kawaipuna Street. 3 of 4 ballots that arrived at this residence although they do not currently live there now.
A voter and her ballot for the November 2020 elections. AVR could become law if the Legislature sends SB 793 to Gov. David Ige’s desk this month. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“It is a long time in coming, and we thank Chair Luke and Sens. Karl Rhoads and Chris Lee for being such amazing champions of AVR and making sure people have the right to register through the DMV,” said Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii. “Without Chair Luke’s approval, we could not have gotten this done.”

SB 159 requires license and ID applicants to choose to be registered to vote or to make changes to voter registration information.

Certain information may be shared but only among county agencies, the state Department of Transportation, election personnel and the online voter registration system.

The 2021 session concludes April 29.

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