Should Residents Be Forced to Register to Vote?02/15/2011
Hawaii could become the national leader in increasing voter registration if proposals before the Legislature become law.
Local lawmakers are considering four bills that would compel U.S. citizens to register to vote.
If any of the bills are approved, Hawaii would be the first state in the country to employ mandatory voter registration tactics, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Currently, all states are required to offer people the option of registering to vote when they apply for a license.
Three proposed bills — two in the House and one in the Senate — would marry voter registration with obtaining a driver's license or state ID. Two of the bills would make it mandatory to register to vote when applying. The other would make voter registration a requirement to get a license or ID.
A fourth bill, introduced in the Senate, would enact universal registration, requiring all citizens eligible to vote to register by the first Tuesday in January in federal election years, or affirmatively decline to register. Failure to do so would result in a fine and render the individual ineligible for state-sponsored benefits or jobs.
Sen. Les Ihara, who introduced the universal registration bill, did so "By Request," which indicates that he doesn't necessarily endorse the measure but that he had constituents who asked him to present it.
Ihara said he isn't sure such sweeping legislation is right for the state.
"Where there are people who are completely ignorant and inattentive and really are not interested and don't have the information at all for elections, I'm not certain I want to encourage them to vote," Ihara told Civil Beat. "So that is a concern."
Ihara said he is more comfortable with the reach of the the driver's license/ID bills.
"These are citizens or residents who are doing something with government," Ihara said. "They're actually getting some benefits from government. They're getting a driver's license or state ID and so forth and so the idea there is that you're actually using government services and we'd like to have the expectation that you participate in our government. So there's more of a rational connection there in having a reciprocal, where we provide services and they in turn be informed enough hopefully to vote."