Maui County Council urges more civic engagement
By Alice L. Lee
I want to express my deepest appreciation to everyone who participated in the 2022 general election on Nov. 8, from candidates and their campaign supporters to the tireless and conscientious election workers and volunteers and, most important, to those who took the time to fulfill their civic duty by casting a ballot.
Unfortunately, less than half of registered voters on Maui, Lānaʻi and Molokai actually exercised their right to vote. Low voter turnout is a longstanding problem and challenge. Indeed, the Countywide Policy Plan, enacted by Ordinance 3732 more than 12 years ago, included the following goal: “Increase voter registration and turnout.”
Maui County had an approximate turnout of 53,244 voters in the 2022 general election, representing roughly 46 percent of the 114,841 residents who were registered to vote. As we move forward, it’s important to understand why we see such low numbers and what we can do to actually increase voter registration and turnout, as directed by the Countywide Policy Plan.
The statewide percentage of voters who participated in the 2022 Hawaiʻi general election is 48.4 percent—which is a 21.2 percent decrease from the 2020 general election. By comparison, in 1959, the first year of statehood, voter turnout was an incredible 93.6 percent.
Research shows low voter turnout is attributed to many factors, including socioeconomic status, apathy and a lack of knowledge about candidates, government policies and community issues. Other common reasons include a belief that voting does not make a difference, lack of connection with candidates and busy schedules.
With our partners in state government, the County of Maui has tried to make it easy to vote, including by giving voters the option of either returning mailed ballots through the postal service or countywide drop boxes or voting at in-person locations.
In Maui County, 50,944 ballots were returned out of the 98,286 that were mailed out. That’s a 51.8 percent return rate.
In-person voting locations included the Mitchell Pauole Center in Kaunakakai, the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku, the Lānaʻi Community Center in Lānaʻi City and the Hāna High & Elementary School in East Maui. From Oct. 25 through the close of the election at 7 p.m. on Nov. 8, approximately 2,300 residents visited Maui County’s voter-service centers to cast their ballot.
Despite a rather disappointing turnout this year, I know we can do much better. Please share your ideas on increasing voter participation with me at email@example.com or (808) 270-7838.
Beyond voting, another great way of helping your community and sharing your voice is to submit written or verbal testimony to the Maui County Council and its standing committees. The 2021-23 council term is winding down, but there are still council meetings scheduled for Dec. 2 and 16, where important legislation will be considered.
The 2023-25 term is scheduled to kick off with an organizational meeting at 2 p.m. on Jan. 2. The meeting agenda, including testimony instructions, will be posted on Dec. 23.
At the organizational meeting, the council will elect its officers—council chair, vice-chair and presiding officer pro tempore—and establish its committees, including their presiding officers, voting members and subject-matter jurisdiction. The council will also appoint its staff and establish its rules of procedure.
As the new year and new term approach, I look forward to working with Mayor-elect Richard Bissen and freshman Councilmembers Tom Cook of South Maui and Nohe U‘u-Hodgins of Makawao-Ha‘ikū-Pā‘ia, along with my six returning council colleagues. Additionally, I would like to express my sincere mahalo and aloha to departing Councilmembers Kelly Takaya King and Mike Molina and Mayor Michael P. Victorino for their outstanding and dedicated public service.
* Alice L. Lee is the Chair of the Maui County Council. She holds the County Council seat for the Wailuku-Waiheʻe-Waikapū residency area. “Council’s 3 Minutes” is a column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Visit mauicounty.us for more information.