Photo: KITV forum
Candidates for Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ at-large trustee participated in a KITV forum at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement's convention. Visit www.oha.org/vote for video. - Photo: Kawena Carvalho-Mattos

The 2018 general election is days away and the results will determine the state’s top leadership for the next four years.

Every vote matters – Hawai‘i’s voter turnout was the lowest in the nation in 2016. While the number of ballots cast during the 2018 primary election in August rose nearly 4 percent over 2016, fewer than 40 percent of registered voters took the time to fill out a ballot.

Many of the 286,041 individuals who did vote skipped some of the races, particularly in Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees contests. Nearly half of voters (49.6 percent) submitted blank ballots for OHA’s three at-large races, while 41.3 percent opted out of selecting a candidate for OHA’s O‘ahu seat. Five of OHA’s nine board seats will be on the general election ballot, giving voters a say in who will manage the Native Hawaiian-serving agency’s trust assets. Early voting is already underway and same day registration is available. Visit the Office of Elections website at olvr.hawaii.gov for details.

History shows that when Hawaiians rally around initiatives aimed at addressing injustices, they can effect change in the voting booth. Issues facing Hawai‘i voters today include affordable housing and homelessness, criminal justice, water rights, community-based resource management and environmental protections, as well as pocketbook issues that affect household income.

Dozens of seats are at stake in 2018 – there are contested races for Hawai‘i’s lieutenant governor and governor, both seats in the U.S. House and one in the Senate, as well as the Maui and Kaua‘i mayors. Many offices in the state Legislature and county councils are also up for election. In addition, voters will find constitutional and charter amendments on the ballot, including whether the state constitution should be opened up for revision at a constitutional convention. The last constitutional convention in 1978 brought sweeping changes, including protections for Native Hawaiian culture and rights and the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

To help voters make informed decisions, OHA has sponsored televised gubernatorial, congressional and OHA candidate debates and forums. In addition, OHA surveyed candidates on issues important to the Hawaiian community and published the answers in an election guide as part of the October 2018 issue of Ka Wai Ola. Visit www.oha.org/vote to find the voter guide, video from an OHA trustee candidate forum and other information about this year’s election.

Photo: KITV forum
Candidates for Office of Hawaiian Affairs’ at-large trustee participated in a KITV forum at the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s convention. Visit www.oha.org/vote for video. – Photo: Kawena Carvalho-Mattos