Traditional campaign logic says that candidates should spend their limited resources talking to people who vote, rather than people who for whatever reason, do not.
The so-called “super voter”, is someone who never misses an election and is typically described as a local resident, born and raised in Hawaii, and over 65 years old. The logic goes on to say that the worst person for a candidate to spend their limited time, energy and money on – is the unregistered voter who is often younger, lower-income and disaffected. Further rationale for not pursuing the unregistered voter is that even if a candidate is successful in registering the person, there is no guarantee they will vote and most do not.
While I stand by this basic logic and encourage candidates to focus on those “super-voters”, recent changes to Hawaii voting laws add a new and important twist to the importance of new-voter registration.
Beginning in 2020, all elections will be “vote-by-mail”. This means that every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail on or about July 21st, and then have until August 8th (Primary Election Day), to review and submit their vote. The ballot must be received by the office of elections prior to or on August 8th.
There will continue to be a limited number of “in-person” voting locations open on election day August 8, but the vast majority of votes are expected to be cast by mail.
Translated: Registered voters (both newly registered and otherwise) do not have to remember to show up at the polls on election day. They will have effectively 15 days (plus or minus depending on mail delivery time) to “remember” to vote. PLUS – candidates will have that same amount of time to “remind” the voters (via door-to-door canvassing and direct mail etc) to vote.
Further Translation: The likelihood of a strong increase in voter turn-out among the newly registered first-time voters (and all voters really), is significant.
Hawaii’s transition to a “vote-by-mail” system presents a new paradigm, and a new opportunity for those who want to support and elect new voices, especially at the state and county levels.
This new way of voting in Hawaii represents an opportunity for community and civic groups to support those candidates who are pushing against the status quo, and who need that extra help – by embarking on aggressive voter registration drives, especially targeting the young and under-represented.
And registering to vote is so incredibly easy to do online at https://olvr.hawaii.gov
In election parlance, small numbers matter and even small percentage increases in targeted demographics (think young people and native Hawaiian) can make a HUGE difference.
After-all, the “super-voter”, or the older establishment voter demographic, is already tapped out. They are already voting and the potential % increase for them, the number of votes they are leaving on the table now, is negligible. Consequently, if the new voter does turn-out (and the research says that this is very likely), then the 2020 election could, in fact, be a watershed event.
The research is clear and consistent.
Studies by Pantheon Analytics examined turnout in Colorado in 2014 and in Utah in 2016…” using each voter’s modeled vote propensity score, we found that low-propensity voters in Colorado dramatically over-performed their expected turnout…The Colorado voters who were predicted to turn out at a rate of 10%, for instance, turned out at a rate of 31% instead…The analysis in this report provides strong evidence that moving to a vote-by-mail system increased turnout in Utah in 2016…When political campaigns and organizations run get-out-the-vote experiments, they are thrilled to see an effect size of even one additional point of turnout. An additional five points of voter turnout — or three points, or seven, or twelve and a half — is an enormous victory for civic participation.” Pantheon Analytics • firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2017, The Nation reported on “Automatic Voter Registration (AVR)” saying, “Of the individuals who were registered for the first time through Oregon’s new program, a significant portion—67,902, or 36 percent—voted in 2016.”
The responsibility of increasing voter registration falls to all of us. Community groups and nonprofits across Hawaii need to step up, join forces and organize aggressive new voter registration drives targeting those voters who are greatly underrepresented. So long as the effort is nonpartisan and not candidate-specific (as required by law), this is an area where nonprofits can offer significant value.
And yes, there is a method to this madness.
1) Assuming that 36% of newly registered voters will actually vote.
2) Assuming also that the voter registration drive targets the “under-represented” – primarily young and those representing demographics who care deeply about environmental, economic and social justice.
3) Then it is most likely also safe to assume that those candidates who believe strongly about these same issues will also benefit from the 36% of the votes cast by the newly registered.
Voila! A bonafide political revolution in Hawaii.
All it takes is for people to take ownership of their government.
It’s called #reclaimingdemocracy