HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.B. NO.

1485

THIRTIETH LEGISLATURE, 2019

H.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

RELATING TO VOTER REGISTRATION.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. The legislature finds that voter turnout in the State remains low and continues to decline. In 2016, Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout in the United States. Only 52.7 per cent of registered Hawaii voters cast ballots in the 2018 general election. This represents a sharp decline in voter turnout over the years, as approximately ninety-four per cent of registered voters cast ballots in the State's first gubernatorial election in 1959.

Additionally, the State has a historically low rate of registered voters. According to a 2016 estimate from the United States Census Bureau, Hawaii had the lowest percentage of registered voters in the country. In 2016, only 49.8 per cent of qualified voters were registered to vote, well below the national average of 64.2 per cent. Therefore, of the 1,064,000 people in Hawaii who were qualified to vote in the 2016 election, 534,128 were not registered to vote.

The legislature also finds that states that adopted automatic voter registration programs have higher voter registration rates and voter turnout. Colorado and Oregon both adopted automatic voter registration programs, and those states' voter registration rates were 68.2 per cent, and 67.4 per cent, respectively. Moreover, Colorado had the eighth highest voter turnout in the 2016 election at 63.8 per cent.

In 2018, thirty-one per cent of qualified voters in the United States between the ages of eighteen to twenty-nine voted. This represented a ten per cent increase in voter turnout for the same age group from the 2014 election. Recent world events have ignited a passion in younger generations around civic engagement, and have led many sixteen and seventeen year-olds to become passionate about voting, and many would vote if given the opportunity.

The legislature further finds that voting at a young age creates and empowers lifelong voters. Data show that after an individual votes once, the individual often becomes a habitual voter. Therefore, by facilitating the ability of those sixteen years of age and older to preregister or register to vote, the State will be empowering a new generation of lifelong voters.

Currently, the department of education requires students to receive four social studies credits to graduate from a public high school. In the course, "Participation in a Democracy," which is required for graduation, students explore what it means to actively engage in civic duties such as voting. This course, and civics education in general, could be enhanced by actively engaging students in the process of voting.

The legislature further finds that voting is the cornerstone of American democracy and, while other states have been in the news for suppressing voters, Hawaii, by automatically registering qualified voters, can convey a message that voting is an unquestioned fundamental right that should be exercised. The State allows individuals who are sixteen and seventeen years old to preregister to vote, but many of these individuals do not know they have the option to preregister to vote. As a result, many sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds do not preregister to vote and often fail to register even after turning eighteen years old.

Accordingly, the purpose of this Act is increase voter participation and encourage civic engagement in Hawaii's schools by establishing a process for the automatic preregistration and registration of public school-enrolled students who are at least sixteen years of age.

SECTION 2. Chapter 11, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to part II to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"11-   Automatic voter preregistration and registration; opt out. (a) Beginning January 1, 2020, any person who:

(1) Is enrolled in a public high school;

(2) Is otherwise qualified to register to vote under this part;

(3) Is at least sixteen years of age; and

(4) Properly completes and submits a voter registration affidavit,

shall be automatically preregistered or registered to vote as provided in subsection (d); provided that the person shall retain the option to subsequently opt in or out of preregistration or registration.

(b) Between January 1 and January 31 of each year, the superintendent of education shall provide and may collect from each student who is at least sixteen years of age a voter affidavit containing the information required by section 11-15 to allow the student to preregister or register to vote or to opt out of preregistering or registering to vote. The superintendent of education shall transmit the voter registration affidavit to the clerk of the county in which the applicant resides; provided that the superintendent of education shall not maintain, scan, review, or copy any voter affidavit nor transmit any information maintained by the department of education.

(c) The clerk shall determine whether the applicant is currently preregistered or registered in the general county register. If the applicant is not currently preregistered or registered, the clerk shall determine whether the applicant is at least sixteen years of age and a citizen of the United States.

(d) Upon determination that the applicant is eligible to preregister or register to vote and not currently preregistered or registered, the clerk shall provide written notification to the applicant of the process to opt out of the automatic voter preregistration or registration; provided that if the applicant does not opt out of preregistration by the applicant's eighteenth birthday, the clerk shall assign a transaction number to the preregistration in a manner that is substantially similar to the numbering of affidavits as required by section 11-15(c), and on the applicant's eighteenth birthday shall automatically register the name of the voter in the general county register as provided in section 11-14."

SECTION 3. Chapter 302A, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to part II, subpart C, to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"302A-   Automatic voter preregistration and registration. The board and the superintendent shall adopt policies as necessary to maximize and facilitate the preregistration and registration of qualifying students to vote as provided in section 11-  ."

SECTION 4. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect on January 1, 2020.


 


 

Report Title:

Automatic Voter Preregistration or Registration; DOE; Opt out

 

Description:

Establishes a process, beginning on January 1, 2020, for automatically preregistering or registering public school-enrolled students who are at least 16 years old. (HB1485 HD1)

 

 

 

The summary description of legislation appearing on this page is for informational purposes only and is not legislation or evidence of legislative intent.