“Every Election is Determined by the People Who Show Up.”
Larry J. Sabato, political scientist
Although 2022 is considered a “midterm” election year (i.e., elections held halfway through the term of office of the U.S. president), the elections this year will decide a number of important races – including the governors of 36 states.
Hawaiʻi residents will also choose a new governor and lieutenant governor. Additionally, Hawaiʻi will be electing one U.S. senator and two congressional representatives. And as a result of redistricting following the 2020 Census, all 76 Senate and House seats in the Hawaiʻi State Legislature are also being decided this year.
In addition to the serious kuleana of selecting the people who will lead Hawaiʻi, and who will advocate for Hawaiʻi in Washington, D.C., for the next four years, this year’s election is critically important for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).
This year, a majority of OHA’s Board of Trustee (BOT) seats are open. Initially, six of the nine BOT seats were going to be on the ballot, but because current BOT Chair Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey – who represents the island of Maui – is running unopposed she has been declared legally and duly elected. The five remaining BOT seats on the ballot this month are: one seat each for Hawaiʻi Island and Oʻahu, and three At-Large seats.
All of these races will decide who will create laws and policies and who will make social, political and economic decisions on behalf of Hawaiʻi – and on behalf of Native Hawaiians.
No matter where any of us stand politically as ʻŌiwi – and whether or not we see ourselves as Americans – voting in the upcoming election is still a valuable tool for Native Hawaiians that should not be discarded or ignored.
Voting gives Kānaka Maoli an opportunity to affect change in a system that is not inherently supportive of Native Hawaiians. It is an easy form of civic engagement that allows us to choose leaders who best reflect our values and who are most likely to advocate for the issues that are important to our lāhui.
Working together, Kānaka Maoli voters can become a force to be reckoned with. If elected leaders know that Native Hawaiians consistently exercise our right to vote, they will be forced to be more responsive to our concerns in order to remain in office. Moreover, Kānaka Maoli voters can help elect Kānaka Maoli candidates who will elevate the issues important to our lāhui.
In Hawaiʻi, mail-in ballots make voting simple. Gone are the days when people had to take time off from work or stand in long lines at polling places. Other than complete apathy for our lāhui and the future of our keiki, there really is no good reason not to vote.
However, uninformed voting is worse than not voting at all.
As members of this community, it is our collective kuleana to educate ourselves on the issues affecting our people and to learn about the candidates running for office this year – their backgrounds, experience, and visions for our homeland – and then cast our votes with wisdom and discernment.
To help Ka Wai Ola readers make informed decisions about who to vote for in the Primary Election this month, OHA surveyed all 19 gubernatorial candidates and all 17 OHA BOT candidates to get their manaʻo on some of the issues of concern to Native Hawaiian voters. A majority of the candidates responded to OHA’s survey and their answers are shared in this special section.
Manaʻo from Community Leaders
To provide context by which to consider candidate responses this election year, particularly OHA BOT candidates, OHA reached out to ʻŌiwi leaders in the areas of education, health, housing and economic development and asked for their manaʻo about what OHA can realistically do to affect positive change in these crucial areas.