by Andrew Walden
Reacting to the June 24, 2013 US Supreme Court ruling overturning parts of the Voting Rights Act, Hawaii's Congressional representatives are demanding action. In lockstep with her three colleagues, Senator Mazie Hirono told reporters, “I am very disappointed that the Supreme Court assumed that voter registration and participation is no longer as much of a concern for minority voters. I couldn’t disagree more. Congress must act quickly to restore the key provisions the Supreme Court struck down and protect every Americans’ right to vote.”
Ironically, were Congress to act, Hawaii would likely move to the top of the Voting Rights enforcement list. Moreover, if Congress fails to act, the US DoJ might attempt to impose a new formula for determining which states are subject to oversight--also putting Hawaii at the top of the list.
Why? Hawaii's consistently low voter turnout.
The Supreme Court invalidated Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act which determined the state elections subject to US Department of Justice supervision. The formula targeted nine Southern states, as well as Alaska and Arizona, and numerous smaller jurisdictions, based on low voter turnout in the general elections of 1964, 1968, and 1972.
From the 1870s until the 1960s, the Democratic Party and its terrorist wing, the Ku Klux Klan, physically prevented black people from voting. But under the Republican "Southern Strategy," (which Democrats call 'racist') Southern whites are no longer a community organized by Democrats to enforce segregation. States targeted using the outdated formula now have much higher voter participation. Black voter turnout in supervised states exceeded that of whites in the 2008 and 2012 elections. As the Supreme Court majority pointed out, "History did not end in 1965."
Inverse and in some ways in reaction to the South's liberation from Democrat domination, Hawaii has drifted into one-party rule. Forty-eight years after Voting Rights, it is Hawaii which consistently has the lowest voter participation in the nation. Hence the irony: Under an updated Section 4(b) formula targeting the low-participation jurisdictions of today, Hawaii would have US DoJ supervision over every election in the State.
Hawaii's political leaders like to flatter themselves. Cheering the US Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage--one day after the Voting Rights decision--Governor Neil Abercrombie bellowed: "In Hawaii, we believe in fairness, justice and human equality, and that everyone is entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else...." But a look at Hawaii's recent voting rights history shows otherwise.
In the 2000 Rice v Cayetano decision, the 7-2 US Supreme Court invalidated Hawaii's racially exclusionary elections for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees.
In 2009 bureaucratic infighting in the State Elections Office was manipulated to undermine newly appointed Chief Elections Officer Kevin Cronin.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 19, 2009, editorialized against church-based voter registration efforts.
Under orders from the Hawaii Supreme Court, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission in 2011 was forced to extract 108,767 military personnel and students from the reapportionment base, thus depriving Oahu residents of equal representation. A court challenge is awaiting a federal court decision.
Hawaii has for decades had the most 'deviant' legislative district population sizes in the nation. This too is challenged in the federal court case.
Hawaii state law requires political parties to select their candidates in an open primary in direct and unconstitutional denial of the freedom of association of political parties which wish to close their primaries. Hawaii Democrats are suing.
Legislator Romy Cachola is accused of harassing elderly absentee voters during the 2012 Primary and demanding they fill out their ballots and hand them over to him to deliver.
The Hawaii County Elections Division Administrator and other election workers were fired in January, 2012. It turned out that under their supervision the County Election Warehouse had for years been used to manufacture campaign signs for Council boss Jimmy Arakaki and other candidates. They also held drunken parties there.
In the runup to the 2012 elections, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago used his position to sabotage the organization of elections in Hawaii County. His purpose was to support the reinstatement of fired Hawaii County Elections Division Administrator Pat Nakamoto, who is also the live-in girlfriend of Nago's mentor, former Hawaii Chief Election Officer Dwayne Yoshina.
Some or all of the fired election workers may be returned to their old jobs. Nakamoto fought to retake her position as Hawaii County Elections Division Administrator while actively campaigning for a Council candidate.
In the 2012 Honolulu General Elections, as many as 69 precincts ran out of ballots causing hundreds of voters to lose their opportunity to participate. With Honolulu's $5B rail project on the line, some believe the election was sabotaged by Scott Nago to prevent the election of anti-rail Honolulu mayoral candidate Ben Cayetano. Nago scapegoated State Elections Office employee Lori Tomczyk for the failure. The Hawaii Elections Commission declined to remove Nago.
If the US DoJ were to properly supervise Hawaii elections, they may not have any resources left to supervise anybody else.