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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Democracy comes with responsibility

For so many Americans who endured generations of discrimination, real freedom did not arrive until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that finally assured African-Americans the right to vote as equal stakeholders in our democracy. Nationally for women, that right came via the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which in 1920 assured their right to vote.

The right to vote is one that many have fought long and hard for.

Now, more than 40 years later, the act is up for renewal. And as part of that process, Congress is considering an amendment that would bring federal oversight of elections to any state with less than half of eligible voters going to the polls in presidential elections over the past 12 years.

Sadly, Hawai'i would be the only state to qualify, given our dismal voter turnout.

Hawai'i has the lowest voter turnout in the nation. Consider the past two presidential elections: In 2000, just 44 percent of the state's eligible voters turned out to vote; in 2004, it was 51 percent.

A simple look back at our nation's history will underscore the importance of voting.

And it's a right that should be taken seriously, particularly in these pivotal times.

Of course, Hawai'i does not need federal oversight. What we do need is a multi-generational reminder that freedom and democracy come with a responsibility that is the responsibility to vote.

This is a big year for Hawai'i at the polls: We've got a contentious race for U.S. Senate between incumbent Sen. Daniel Akaka and Rep. Ed Case, a gubernatorial race that will help set the state's agenda for the next four years, and a chorus line of people running for Case's congressional seat.

Add to that other state and local races, and this is a "must vote" year with the potential of shaping Hawai'i's political landscape for years to come.

So while you celebrate freedom this holiday, don't forget it comes with the right and the responsibility to vote. The election is not until the fall, but don't put off registering now to be a full participant.

Not only does your vote count, it matters.