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2019 Legislature Comes Into Session

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

The 30th Hawaii State Legislature convenes on January 16, 2019 and continues through May 2, 2019. This year, I am serving on three committees: Ways and Means, Water and Land, and Human Services. My 2019 legislative initiatives will include several good government and election reform bills, in addition to continuing our efforts to resolve other issues.

Every election cycle seems to result in less participation by voters. A majority of residents are uninterested in exercising this privilege, presumably because they feel their vote does not matter. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. Take, for example, the 500 votes, out of millions, that decided the 2000 Presidential Election, or the 22 votes that may be the deciding tally for the City Council race in East Honolulu.

Perhaps voters are apathetic because they think they have no choice, that incumbents are unbeatable, or that their preferred candidate has no chance. While we often have competitive races on the North Shore, many of those races are decided in the Primary Elections, rather than the General Elections. We do not, however, have a robust turnout of voters.

I am submitting for consideration and debate two alternative voting methods: Top Two Primary and Ranked Choice Voting. The former is now being used in Washington, California and Nebraska, while the latter is used in Maine.

In the Top Two Primary, all candidates are listed on the same primary ballot. The top two vote-getters, regardless of partisan affiliation, advance to the general election. Consequently, it is possible for two candidates belonging to the same political party to win in a top-two primary and face off in the general election. This gives each voter a chance to vote for their preferred candidate in each and every race.

Under Maine’s system, voters can rank their choices among the candidates on the ballot —  first, second, third, etc. If no candidate gets 50 percent or more of the first choice votes, the bottom candidate is dropped, and the second choice of those voters gets added to the tallies of the remaining candidates. The procedure is repeated, until there is a candidate who has the support of at least 50 percent of the voters. This system allows voters to support their preferred candidate without fear of “wasting” their vote and prevents any candidate from winning without a majority of the vote.

Other election related reforms I will introduce would create a statewide voters’ guide, establish term limits for state legislators, and allow candidates for Governor to select their running mates.

I will continue to work towards saving agricultural lands and getting control of the vacation rental crisis. I will also submit legislation to create a process to systematically underground utilities, improve the campaign financial reporting schedules and expand the list of government officials required to provide public financial disclosures. Of course, I will do everything I can to faithfully represent the will of the residents of our great district on all matters.

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