Voting in the 2020 Elections is More Critical Than Ever

No one should have to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote. Hawaii lawmakers acted responsibly and quickly to ensure that this was not a dilemma by implementing the state’s first ever all-mail election (actually an expansion of absentee voting) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically Hawaii ranks dead last in the nation in voter turnout despite many decades of election officials and community leaders trying to correct voter apathy. But this 2020 is a golden opportunity. If all goes as planned, the simplicity of all-mail in voting (ballots are automatically sent to registered voters) should result in a steep rise in turnout (meaning actual voting). All that’s necessary is for voters to fill in their ballot and mail it back before the day of the Primary Election, August 8.

But Hawaii voters need to pay extra attention to important dates under this system, more than ever before. First, to receive a ballot packet at your home, voters need to make sure that they are properly registered before the deadline of July 9, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. Any changes in address, name, must be updated before the deadline. 

Other important dates to remember is July 21 for the Primary Election and Oct. 16 for the General Election. These are the dates that the ballot packages will be sent to registered voters’ homes. If a registered voter does not receive the ballet package within 3-4 days from these dates, it’s important to contact your Clerk’s Office. Visit the Office of Elections website for contact information.

The most critical date to remember is at least 5 days prior to the Primary Election day (August 8) and prior to the General Election day (Nov. 3), voters should already have mailed in their ballot to leave time for it to be received by the deadlines (election day).

It’s encouraged that if voters already have made up their minds on who to vote for, they should send back their ballots (remember to sign it for it to count) as soon as they receive it.

If voters are not comfortable with the new mail-in process, voters can still vote in person at Voter Service Centers which will be open from July 27 to the Primary Election day on Aug. 8. (see details in this issue’s cover story).

Filipino community must come out to vote
With so many pressing issues affecting the Filipino community from immigration to unemployment (Filipinos make up a large percentage of hotel workers and are disproportionately impacted from COVID-19 closures), it’s imperative that Filipinos have a high voter turnout rate. Remember: voting has a direct impact on policies and laws.

Voting is a political equalizer, meaning that despite all of society’s inequalities, when it comes to voting, each vote counts equally. This is particularly significant for marginalized communities who lack equal power and influence in many other sectors of society.

Our community ought to not only vote, but vote smartly. We must do our homework and examine closely which candidates align best with our values and needs. Know well ahead of time who the candidates are in your State House District, City Council, State Senate District, Congressional District, and their position on key issues. 

Ask yourselves: Is change necessary? Why is it increasingly more difficult to survive? Who has been voting on my side when it comes to healthcare? Who is protecting my union? Who is good for small business? Who supports a decent wage for workers? Who is for fair immigration reform? Who is for protecting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and social safety nets? Who is best for jobs creation? Who stands for equal protection under the law, and of late, equal protection in policing? Who will protect the environment? Who is a moral leader? Who sides with the average American versus big-monied interests? Who is for senior care, child care? Who is the best consumer protection candidate and will fight for accountability and better rates for fixed costs like home insurance, car insurance? Who is for keeping utility rates low and manageable. Who is ensuring that Hawaii’s property taxes do not skyrocket as rates on the mainland? Who is for smart business regulations? Who is for smart development and preservation of lands? Who will work to diversify Hawaii’s economy? Who is the best money manager? Who will keep taxes on the middle-working-and poor manageable? Who would be willing to tax billionaires their fair share?

Whatever your values and key issues are – know who is looking after your best interests.

Historical importance
Non-voters should be reminded that it took many years of struggle for each American to have the right to vote. The 14th amendment gave all persons with U.S. citizenship rights and privileges, including the right to vote. The 15th amendment declared that no citizen is to be denied the right to vote based on race or color. The 19th amendment gave women the right to vote. The 24th amendment declared that there would be no poll tax, and the 26th amendment declared that citizens 18 or older are given the right to vote. There has been resistance and efforts to challenge these amendments. Then finally the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (and five amendments to it) made it illegal to deny a citizen the right to vote. 

Fighting for the right to vote actually goes back to the very beginning of our nation when Americans fought against the English monarchy. In the times of monarchy, the English King decided who the leaders would be. Early American settlers fought for independence from their colonial powers in part to be able to decide by voting who the new nation’s leaders ought to be, not the King.

One way of looking at voting is that it gives honor to the many heroes of democracy – from the war of independence to the civil rights era of the 1960s — who fought over the course of centuries to give each voter this privilege.

Please exercise your right to vote that many have fought for. Your participation matters.

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