Hawaiian get-out-vote efforts build
|||Registration drives reach out to immigrants|
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Gordon Y.K. Pang
"No Vote, No Grumble" is the theme of a drive to get Hawaiians to register to vote and then cast a ballot.
Through sign-up tables, bumper stickers, brochures, T-shirts and rallies, Hawaiian Vote 2006 wants to get the word out that collectively, Hawaiians can make a difference.
"If you look at our numbers, if everyone came out to vote, we would be a force to be reckoned with," said Mona Wood, owner of Ikaika Communications and one of the group's advisory panel members. "There are Hawaiians who disagree on the issues, but we all agree on this."
Hawaiian Vote 2006, a non-profit group, estimates there are about 154,000 Hawaiian residents eligible to vote and about 68,000 actually registered. The group's goal is to sign up an additional 25,000 by the Nov. 7 general election.
Wayne Panoke, one of the organizers, insists that the effort does not seek to promote any candidate, party or even issue, other than showing that Hawaiians as a bloc can be a force to be reckoned with.
Recent legislation unfavorable to Hawaiians, as well as lawsuits targeting Kamehameha Schools' Hawaiians-first admissions policy and government-sponsored programs for Hawaiians, shows the need for mobilization, he said.
"We believe that much of the turmoil now being visited upon our ali'i trusts and native rights are due to the lack of respect for our political power as a people," Panoke said. "Hopefully, this effort will make the candidates and the legislators realize that we are no longer going to just sit back and be warm and loving.
"The time has come to empower our people and we have waited long enough to be able to have a voice."
Jalna Keala, a retired Office of Hawaiian Affairs government affairs officer, said Hawaiians need to bring out the vote "as a means of reclaiming what we're losing daily; we look around and we see Hawai'i slipping away from us and as Hawaiians we need to reclaim it."
Keala noted recent statistics showing less than half of the people in Hawai'i today were born here. "That's kind of scary because it changes the values, and when the values change, we're left out as native people. Voting is one way of regaining that, to say, 'Eh, listen, we're here, don't forget about us.' "
The effort is the brainchild of Panoke and Joe Pickard, a businessman and one-time political aspirant. Panoke, a community activist, works for Community Planning & Engineering, one of Pickard's companies. Both are supporters of Mayor Mufi Hannemann, and Panoke worked in the mayor's office until recently. But Panoke stressed there is no individual political agenda attached to the effort.
Wood pointed out that the group's advisory board comprises Hawaiians with different political perspectives.
The notion that Hawaiians always disagree with each other is a fallacy perpetuated by the media, Panoke said. "Everybody always says that Hawaiians can't work together," he said. "But Hawaiians are no different than any other ethnic group that lives here in these Islands. Everybody has disagreements. I think people would be shocked to know that we agree on a lot more things than they give us credit for."
Adrian Kamali'i, who owns Pae 'Aina Communications, said the Hui Kalai 'Aina effort of the late 1800s rallied Hawaiians and helped contribute to the success of the Ku'e petition, which contained the signatures of thousands who opposed annexation to the United States.
The Hawaiian Vote 2006 project is looking to that effort for inspiration, Kamali'i said.
Kamali'i, 24, said a special effort is being made to register younger Hawaiians in the 18-to-25 age category.
To that end, the group is setting up voter education and registration tables Aug. 21 to 23 at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa Campus Center, as well as the Center for Hawaiian Studies. A concert has also been tentatively scheduled for Andrews Amphitheater.
Marketing efforts will also target other college campuses as well as radio stations favored by Hawaiian youths.
"I don't think we (younger Hawaiians) see voting as a responsibility. We see it as a burden," Kamali'i said. "Our job will be to flip that and to show it's as much a responsibility as brushing your teeth in the morning."
A segment of the Hawaiian community believes in independence from the United States and doesn't want to have anything to do with the American political process. Panoke said the group wants to reach out to those folks as well.
"I don't believe that exercising your right to vote indicates support for the way the government operates," Panoke said.
Efforts are also under way to drum up more registered voters on Hawai'i Island, Maui, Kaua'i and Moloka'i, he said. "We are available to attend 'ohana reunions, class reunions, organizational meetings, concerts, events, gatherings, whatever, to help register. We will send out our volunteers."
The group has also scheduled rallies at 'Iolani Palace on Sept. 16 and Nov. 4 that will feature entertainment, food and speakers who will encourage people to vote.
The group is seeking additional sponsors, Panoke said.
The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is working with Hawaiian Vote 2006 on its effort and also has its own campaign, Native Votes Count.
Most of the council's own efforts, which began in 2002, are focused on canvassing house-to-house in different communities where Hawaiians are concentrated. So far this year, through partnerships with community associations, volunteers have gone to Papakolea, Kewalo and Kalawahine on O'ahu, Anahola on Kaua'i and Kalama'ula on Moloka'i.
"At the end of the day, our Hawai'i looks the way it looks because of who votes and who participates," said Jade Danner, the council's vice president.
Hawaiians make up about 18 percent of the voting population, Danner said, and less than half of them vote. The council has a higher estimate of Hawaiian voters — 75,785 — than Hawaiian Vote 2006.
Regardless, Danner said, it's important Hawaiians actually vote once they are registered.
Reach Gordon Y.K. Pang at email@example.com.
Correction: A previous version of this story that attributed quotes to Robin Danner, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, should have been attributed to Jade Danner, one of CNHA's vice presidents.