The good people at CNN have been examining voter turnout rates, crunching the numbers, and making lists, and they have found -- much to their apparent dismay -- that the state of Hawaii had the lowest voter turnout of any of these United States back in 2008. As CNN's John D. Sutter will tell you, this is surprising -- at least to him -- because our current president is actually from Hawaii. (Though a dedicated band of lunatics dispute this!) This concerns Sutter, greatly:
I came to the Aloha State not for the beaches, volcanoes and helicopter tours but because Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout rate in the nation. In the 2008 presidential race, when Barack Obama -- Hawaii's body-surfing, shaka-throwing native son -- was at the top of the ticket, fewer than half of eligible Hawaii residents voted. Compare that with the No. 1 civic-minded state, Minnesota, where 78% cast ballots.
We can all agree that's a problem, right?
I would say that most ordinary Americans are more greatly troubled by their loved ones' continued unemployment, the consistently anemic economy, the widespread foreclosure crisis, student loan indebtedness, shrinking state budgets and long deployments in the unending war in Afghanistan. But I suppose if you proceed down that list of problems, eventually you'll find, "Hawaii has the lowest voter turnout in the nation, oh no," right below "I forgot to TiVo the latest episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles" and above "The Harris Teeter is always out of ciabatta."
Nevertheless, reporting on voter turnout rates is always a pretty worthy journalistic endeavor, because nationwide, turnout is rather embarrassingly low. But the people at CNN do not want to stop at merely reporting Hawaii's low turnout rate. No, no! Rather, they have decided that they are going to try to do something about it.
And so, they have launched what they are calling the "Change The List" project, and they have a tumblr and everything, where they announce their goal: "Help us bring change to places and issues that need it most. Our current effort: Bumping Hawaii off the bottom of the United States voter turnout list."
Okay, then. The "change" that they want to "bring" to the "places and issues" that "need it most" essentially boils down to helping Hawaii move from the state with the worst voter turnout to the state with the next-to-worst voter turnout, which will really stick it to West Virginia, which currently sits at 49th place. This effort will teach the entire nation a lesson, about something.
So, how do they plan to "Change The List?" Through a strategy so bold and innovative, you'll wonder why no one has attempted it before.
If you want to be part of the solution, here are four small ways to help:
- Participate in "Convince Me to Vote!" Send messages to these five-non voters I met in Hawaii and ask them to vote for the first time.
- Are you a first-time voter? Make a public pledge to vote by uploading a photo of yourself to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #changethelist. It will show up on this auto-updating photo wall, powered by Chute.
- Make a pledge to vote with CNN's "I'm voting" Facebook app. Research shows that if Facebook friends see you're voting, it encourages them to do so, too.
- Know someone in Hawaii? Share this "Mahalo for Voting!" image on social media. Send it to five of your friends and ask them to pass it on.
There you have it, folks. We will change the list by bothering the five non-voters in Sutter's story, and doing stuff with Instagram and Twitter and Facebook.
Here's one dude that this CNN project has identified as a critical target of these efforts, Paul Hewlett. He wants America to "convince him to vote," because America has apparently got nothing better to do:
Convince him to vote! Send him a message on YouTube or Twitter with the hashtag #CTL1 and we’ll be sure the messages gets to him. ”I’ve never voted in my life,” Hewlett told me when I met him on a beach in Hawaii. “I don’t think my one vote is going to make any difference.” You could convince him otherwise.
One would think that the easiest way to convince someone to vote would be to ask him to just spend twenty minutes reading a newspaper or -- I don't know -- maybe watching CNN? But failing that, I guess that some strange hashtag campaign will work? It certainly hasn't been attempted before, to my knowledge. Perhaps what Paul Hewlett has been waiting for, all his life, is for random people on Twitter to encourage him to participate in our democracy. "I totally get it now," he will say, adding, "Thanks, hashtag."
And really, big thanks to CNN for ensuring that "the messages get to him." How else would people communicate on Twitter, without a major media corporation serving as an intermediary?
Michael Remen, a sous-chef in Hilo, Hawaii, spent an hour and a half trying to vote in the primary. The polling places were such a mess, he said, that he doesn’t plan to vote in November. Before this year, he always looked forward to going to his polling place. Help us convince him to vote again. Post a message or video and tag it #CTL2.
I suppose that one way you could convince Mr. Remen to vote is to get on Twitter and send him messages like, "Attaboy, Michael! You can do it!" But what I did instead is call the Hawaii Office of Elections and confirm that any registered voter is welcome to cast an early, in-person ballot, beginning Tuesday, and that residents of Hilo specifically can do so at the Aupuni Center Conference Room, located at 101 Pauahi Street. But I realize that my solution to this problem, while more effective, lacks the super-cool frippery of using social media doodads to harangue this guy.
At any rate, I guess the bottom line here is that Hawaii's voter turnout isn't slightly higher in 2012 then it was in 2008, this is your fault, America, for not tweeting more encouragements to these seemingly helpless people.
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