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2 Notes

It’s a really volunteer, grass-roots driven effort. It’s by and large a younger set of volunteers, in their 20s and 30s, who really believe in the fundamental principle of democracy — that everybody ought to have an equal voice in it and equal power to shape the future of our government. And that promise has really rung hollow for a long time … The only way to restore that is to get out and start to re-engage ourselves and each other in political life. It has to start there or it’s not going to happen.
James Koshiba, executive director of Kanu Hawaii, explaining the group’s door-to-door, person-to-person efforts to increase voter participation in the state.

70 Notes

Here’s the list: Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the United States

Here’s our first list: Voter turnout rates by state.

The list below shows voter turnout in the 2008 general election. Shout-out to Michael McDonald, from George Mason University, who tabulated the numbers. For the data-minded, these percentages are the number of people who voted for the highest office on the ticket, divided by the voting-eligible population. Other measures, including a Census Bureau survey, also put Hawaii at the bottom of the list for voter turnout in the United States. We went with this list from McDonald in part because the Census Bureau bases its voter turnout numbers on surveys instead of direct ballot counts.

This list is just the start. We will be doing stories on voter turnout in Hawaii — and creating some social media campaigns — in hopes of bumping this place of luaus and sun off the bottom of the list. Check back on this site to learn how you can help.

And please take a look at the list, which is presented in reverse order, from the state with the lowest voter turnout rate to the highest.

Let us know what you think in the comments. How did your state fare? What do you think accounts for the differences in turnout?

Hawaii - 48.8%

West Virginia - 49.9%

Arkansas - 52.5%

Texas - 54.1%

Oklahoma - 55.8%

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Why doesn’t Hawaii vote?

Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate of any U.S. state.

This was true even in 2008, when Obama — Hawaii’s native son — was on the presidential ticket. Less than half of Hawaii’s population voted in that election.

So what’s up?

I’m going to travel to the state soon to find out. (Rough life, right?) And in preparation, I’ve talked with several academics and voting rights advocates about some of the reasons people in Hawaii tend to vote at a lower rate than the rest of us. 

Here are some of the theories people have floated. These are the hypotheses I’ll test out on the ground. Take a look and let me know what seems most plausible:

  • Hawaiians have better things to do — mostly surf. This idea strikes me as a bit naive and simplistic. But fun. And I like the idea of needing to talk to surfers.
  • Time zones mess everything up. By the time Hawaiians go to the polls to elect a president, they already know who won. They’re six hours behind the East Coast, and networks sometimes call elections after polls close in the California. They don’t wait for Hawaii. And it’s got to be difficult to drive yourself over to a polling station if the radio is already blabbing about who won the race.

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