Star-Advertiser: get people to polls on August 4th

EDITORIAL| ISLAND VOICES
 
Don’t squander precious right to vote — get people to polls
By Riley Johnson
July 19, 2018
 
On Aug. 4, the public will have the opportunity to rally at the state Capitol, in a newly created event called “People to the Polls,” and cast their votes in an election thought to be the most significant since November 2016. This election is important for several reasons dear to the people of Hawaii: women’s rights, immigration policy, health care, environmental protection, and more.
 
We have taken several steps backward in recent months. If we want progress, everyone in Hawaii who can vote should vote.
 
Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout of any state. Higher levels of civic engagement promote a better democracy as it is the most direct way to implement change. We have the opportunity to tell our elected officials exactly what we want done. Voting is the most important aspect of any democracy. If we fail to vote, we are failing to use the one of the most important methods of holding elected representatives accountable.
 
I, like many young people, wasn’t interested in politics. The narrative that voting doesn’t matter, or that it’s too inconvenient, stuck with me and my peers. It wasn’t until the 2016 presidential election that I started to take note of politics. The campaigns, complete with the 24-hour news cycle coverage, were flashy but devoid of change that would help my local community in Hawaii.
 
I was fortunate to find the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA), a nonpartisan group that fights for progressive values. An internship with the Kuleana Academy, workshops put on by HAPA to train aspiring candidates to run for office, taught me the importance of having honest and reliable people dedicated to bettering their communities in public office.
 
Campaign strategies and a variety of Hawaii-specific issues were discussed, instilling in me an even greater dedication to getting involved in the policy-making process. This ambition led me to spend a semester interning in Washington, D.C., where I was able to gain an inside perspective on policy-making at the federal level.
 
There I realized just how important every vote is. Every phone call, letter or email made to your local representative can make a difference when it comes time to make a decision. This past year should be a sign of why it is so important to vote.
 
While over 40 percent of Americans neglected to vote, we have witnessed thousands of children separated from their families on the U.S.-Mexico border, a Muslim travel ban, the abandonment of numerous multi-national agreements that foster economic and diplomatic relationships, and a withdrawal from the Paris agreement on addressing climate change.
 
On Aug. 4, this community can engage in the political process by attending “People to the Polls,” a new event hosted by Young Progressives Demanding Action (YPDA) and consisting of a march from Ala Moana Beach Park to the state Capitol. Participants will be able to attend the free event to register to vote and partake in early voting. A variety of advocacy and community organizations, such as the Sierra Club, will be present to educate the public about their issues.
 
“‘People to the Polls’ is an opportunity to show the public that civic participation in the democratic process can be fun and engaging,” said Will Caron, Social Justice Action Committee chairman for YPDA and lead organizer for the event. “When we come together to share an afternoon of food, fun and entertainment as a community, we can make democratic participation feel like a natural part of life in the islands.”
 
I hope to see my community with me on Aug. 4 to take charge of our own futures and hold our elected representatives accountable. It starts with exercising the precious, hard-won right to vote. Let’s not waste that right.