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You pick it, CNN will cover it

VOTE on CNN Change the List topics here. We’ve put forward 20 options. Will report on the top five you choose. 

Here’s what some people/orgs are saying on Twitter:

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You can do it Hawaii! Share this image and encourage your friends to vote tomorrow — CNN’s Change the List

You can do it Hawaii! Share this image and encourage your friends to vote tomorrow — CNN’s Change the List

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Edythe McNamee and I go on a journey through Hawaii — figuring out why that state ranks dead last in terms of voter turnout. Our goal: Change the List.

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Did you know Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the United States? You can help us change that - starting with one person, Paul Hewlett. Convince him to vote! Send him a message on YouTube or Twitter with the hashtag #CTL1 and we’ll be sure the messages gets to him. ”I’ve never voted in my life,” Hewlett told me when I met him on a beach in Hawaii. “I don’t think my one vote is going to make any difference.” You could convince him otherwise. This project is part of CNN’s Change the List. Our goal is to boost Hawaii off the bottom of the voter turnout ranking. Thanks so much! —John
UPDATE: Check out the responses from the online community here.

Did you know Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the United States? You can help us change that - starting with one person, Paul Hewlett. Convince him to vote! Send him a message on YouTube or Twitter with the hashtag #CTL1 and we’ll be sure the messages gets to him. ”I’ve never voted in my life,” Hewlett told me when I met him on a beach in Hawaii. “I don’t think my one vote is going to make any difference.” You could convince him otherwise. This project is part of CNN’s Change the List. Our goal is to boost Hawaii off the bottom of the voter turnout ranking. Thanks so much! —John

UPDATE: Check out the responses from the online community here.

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Hawaii county clerk: ‘We cannot operate without people casting votes’

America usually does OK with the “free” part of “free and fair elections.” 

"Fair" seems a bit trickier. 

On the Big Island of Hawaii, some voters were turned away from the primary election. Now the island is wrestling with how to handle the November polls. The state has stepped in to try to regularize the island’s elections, but some voters already have lost confidence.

Continue reading…

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I never voted until I ran for office.
Elle Cochran, Maui councilwoman. Like many people on this laid-back Hawaiian island, Cochran grew up more interested in beaches than politicians. But when development threatened Honolua Bay, one of her favorite surf spots, she got involved.

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From non-voter to political candidate

On Saturday, Edythe McNamee, a CNN videographer, and I went canvassing with a group called Kanu Hawaii. Volunteers are trying to increase the state’s low voter turnout rate. One of the people we followed from door to door, avoiding barking dogs and suspicious glares from some residents, was 36-year-old Joe Heaukulani.

He told us a remarkable story of transformation.

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Hawaii bans billboards, so candidates stand on the side of the road and throw the shaka sign to commuters. This candidate said the key is to make eye contact- with everyone.

Hawaii bans billboards, so candidates stand on the side of the road and throw the shaka sign to commuters. This candidate said the key is to make eye contact- with everyone.

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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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Check out this map of voter turnout in Hawaii during the 2012 primary. The state as a whole has the lowest voter turnout rate in the United States. This map is from Jared Kuroiwa, who is building digital tools to inform people about politics in the state.
Click on to the image to go to the interactive Google map.

Check out this map of voter turnout in Hawaii during the 2012 primary. The state as a whole has the lowest voter turnout rate in the United States. This map is from Jared Kuroiwa, who is building digital tools to inform people about politics in the state.

Click on to the image to go to the interactive Google map.

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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.

Continue reading…