Here’s a little something you might not realize: In the United States, whether you voted is a matter of public record.
Not who you voted for. Just whether or not you cast a ballot.
It’s easier to get those records in some states than others. But the point is that a person (like me, in case you can’t tell where I’m going with this) can drop into West Maui and ask the county clerk for a list of all registered voters in a particular district. That list can include where a person lives and whether he or she voted in a particular election.
You can see what that list looks like in the photo above. Edythe, the CNN videographer who’s working with me on this project, and I used that list to go on a little scavenger hunt earlier this week. She pulled one sheet out of a monster stack of papers and we decided to spend an afternoon trying to talk with every non-voter on that list. It just so happened that the page she pulled began with the Kings of Maui. (And by Kings, I mean people with the last name King, not the literal royal family, which, as you may have read here, is something people talk about).
Many of the visits went bust. Barking dogs. Unanswered knocks. People who didn’t want to be identified. We tried not to be too “Dateline” with these reporter-at-the-door encounters. I genuinely wanted to learn about some of the reasons people don’t vote, not shame these random interview subjects. But seeing two CNN journalists at your door, unannounced and with a camera, probably isn’t the least jarring thing that could happen in the middle of an otherwise lazy afternoon.
One highlight of this little experiment was our chat with Robert King, 61, who was the first King we tracked down. He lives in a gated community, but someone let us in and we just happened to catch him as he was walking out of his condo and into the parking lot. He told us he moved to Maui from Las Vegas, but that he and his wife became so bored with paradise (they like it, of course, but there’s not much to do besides water sports, which isn’t really their thing) that they’re moving back to the mainland in the next year or so. He didn’t vote in the previous election because he didn’t feel rooted enough to make informed judgments on local candidates.
“We don’t know enough about what’s going on here to vote,” he said.
He does plan to vote in November, though.
Talking with that King was completely random. But he brought up a point: The rootlessness of our modern society — as people move away to college as well as for careers, lifestyle changes and retirement — makes it all the harder to be involved. And to vote.