Dems’ Dilemma, Low-vote Fixes

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - August 16, 2006

Some thoughts on election year 2006:

Let’s start with the Democrats’ dilemma. Dan Inouye has endorsed two candidates for reelection to the United States Senate this year: Dan Akaka, who voted with him against invading Iraq, and Joe Lieberman - incumbent Connecticut Democrat who voted to invade Iraq and has consistently supported W’s policy there (ever-changing as it’s been).

Early polls show Akaka leading in his bid to be re-elected to a third six-year term. And on Aug. 8 Connecticut Democrats chose challenger Ned Lamont, a wealthy businessman who went after Lieberman for his slavish backing of the president.

Inouye’s two endorsements highlight the dilemma faced by Democrats this year. While W’s favorability ratings range from 36 to 40 percent primarily because of the mess in the Middle East, Democrats themselves are all over the map on the issue. Two years ago John Kerry never did come up with an explanation for his early support for the Iraq invasion - and his position a brief year-and-a-half later that it was a big mistake.

So three members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003: Inouye, Akaka and Neil Abercrombie. Now the fourth says he would have supported it if he had been in Congress - and he’s involved in a slug-fest with Akaka.

Oh, those Dems. Oh, those Dems. From Hartford to Honolulu, they’re rocky on Iraq.

Which brings us to debates. Case wants to debate Akaka as often as possible before the Sept. 23 gubernatorial primary. Randy Iwase would like Gov. Linda Lingle to debate as often as possible before the Nov. 7 general election.

Neither Case nor Iwase will get his wish. Oh, Akaka may show up for a joint appearance or two, but he’s not going to agree to a televised debate. Lingle may go a step further and allow one televised debate, but no more than that. Both lead in the polls. They have everything to lose by debating and little to gain.

Of course they should debate, everywhere and often. Voters have a right to hear candidates side-by-side, unscripted, warts and blemishes clearly on display.

More important, voters need to hear - repeatedly, so that it will sink in - where candidates stand on a slew of issues: the traffic congestion that paralyzes Island highways from Kona to Kapolei, the overdevelopment that is contributing to that congestion, the state’s lack of affordable housing, the state’s under-funded and much maligned educational system, and our persistent drug problem.

And that’s just the state stuff. But we’re not going to thrash out the issues, particularly on the state side. When one candidate - in this case, the incumbent governor - has $6 million and the other candidate has zip, you don’t have an election. You have a purchase.

Which leads us to voter participation. Hawaii folks have been flagellating themselves for several years now over their low voter turnout. It is a scandal - one that we must confront. I’ve heard several suggestions in recent years, and I support them all.

The first would offer a significant tax deduction or rebate for every member of a household who votes, proof required. Why not?

The second would create a state lottery based on voter participation. Vote and you automatically qualify for a - let us say - $1 million jackpot. Those who don’t vote? They get to read about the new millionaire a couple of days after the election.

The third would allow same-day voter registration. Show up at the polls, show identification, and vote - simple as that.

The fourth would require people to vote, with a fine levied on anyone over age 18 who fails to cast a ballot.

Those who worry about corrupting the system by allowing people to vote so easily need only look at a system in which less than 40 percent of those registered will vote in the primary election, perhaps 55 percent in the general. And 200,000 or more who aren’t registered at all.

Politicians pay attention to people who vote, so in such a system those who have get more, those who haven’t fall farther behind. If the state and the republic are to be governed for all the people, then as close to all as we can get must vote.

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