I’m seeing election ads on TV and am wondering if the elections this year are important. Does it matter if I vote?

Photo: Daylin Rose-Heather

By Daylin Rose-Heather, NHLC Staff Attorney

Native Hawaiians have a long history of actively participating in politics to better their communities. The political prowess of Hawaiian aliʻi and mō’ī is well-documented and their achievements as policymakers and advocates continue to be celebrated and honored by Native Hawaiians today.

This year, there are elections for a number of important federal, state, and county roles that will set the public policy agenda throughout Hawaiʻi in the coming years. Their decisions will determine how hundreds of millions of dollars in government resources are spent. They will also influence the way the law – including environmental, criminal justice, and Native Hawaiian law – is developed and applied. And some elected officials will appoint people to lead and make decisions in many other important government roles.

For example, the next governor will appoint justices and judges to Hawaiʻi’s appellate and circuit courts, members to state boards and commissions, and numerous state department agency directors, including the directors of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and the Department of Land and Natural Resources, which manages water, land, and other precious natural resources throughout the pae ʻāina. State senators will then decide whether to confirm or deny the governor’s appointments. These decisions will have lasting impacts on the future of Hawaiʻi.

The lāhui continues to have an important role to play in the politics of Hawaiʻi today, and the opportunity to greatly influence the outcome of these elections and, by extension, public policy. Every vote counts. Together our votes are a loud voice advocating for the lāhui’s most pressing needs.

What’s the difference between the primary and general elections? The people I want to vote for are not all one political party. Do I have to vote for people only from one party?

The primary and general elections are held on separate days and serve separate functions. The primary election day this year is Saturday, August 13. The primary election determines the one candidate from each party who will represent their party in the general election that will occur later. On the primary ballot, you will need to select one party and vote only for candidates representing that party. You cannot vote for candidates from differing parties during the primary election. This does not apply to the OHA and county contests, which do not have political party affiliations.

The general election this year is Tuesday, November 8. In the general election, you can vote for any candidate from any party whose name is on the ballot.

So how do I vote?

You can check your voter registration status online at the State of Hawaiʻi Office of Elections website or by calling (808) 453-VOTE (8683). If you aren’t registered, complete and submit an application online or by mail. Registration is also available in-person at Voter Service Centers, so new voters can register and vote on the same day if needed.

After you are registered, you can vote. Although you can register online, you cannot vote online. Voting is done (1) by submitting your completed ballot by mail or ballot drop box, or (2) by visiting a Voter Service Center in person. All ballots must be received by your County Elections Division by 7:00 p.m. on election day, so vote early if you can. For more information about where and how to vote, visit the State of Hawai’i Office of Elections website at https://elections.hawaii.gov or call (808) 453-VOTE (8683).

E Nīnau iā NHLC provides general information about the law, not legal advice. You can contact NHLC about your legal needs by calling NHLC’s office at 808-521-2302. You can also learn more about NHLC at nativehawaiianlegalcorp.org.