‘Walk to the Box’ captures Native Hawaiian voter turnout

Oct. 29: Native Hawaiian organizations are holding several get-out-the-vote events across the state ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

Native Hawaiian organizations are hosting several get-out-the-vote events across the state ahead of the Nov. 8 general election.

This week saw “Walk to the Box 2022” signs and group walks/drives to drop-off boxes on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island. The effort aims to encourage Native Hawaiians and their youth to participate in the electoral process.

“This movement is really a rallying call to get Native Hawaiians out to vote and encourage them to show that Native Hawaiian issues should be considered,” said Jacob Aki, one of the event’s facilitators.

Organizers have also brought together high school student leaders to get their classmates involved in the events, since many of them will be voting for the first time, Aki said. “Part of our goal is to ensure that our next generation of leaders understands the importance of why we’re doing this,” he said. Also important, Aki added, is “giving them a platform to really share their concerns and their voice.”

Cheyenne Sato, a senior at Kamehameha Schools’ Hawaii campus, attended a “Walk to the Box” event Wednesday in Hilo along with several others in her grade. Although she is not old enough to vote, she hopes the events will inspire others to vote, especially those her own age.

“Just showing that young people are interested in it, that can be the catalyst,” Sato said. “Students will start to realize that it’s something big and important and something we need to understand for adulthood.”

Including students in events creates an environment where they can practice voicing their concerns and opinions about current events, Aki said. “Events like this provide them with that leadership-building moment,” he said.

Among the issues discussed at the events is an apparent misconception that “Native Hawaiians don’t vote,” Aki said. Hai lama Farden, president of the Hawaii Association of Civic Clubs, said the misconception is “very harmful” to the Native Hawaiian community.

Countering Perceived Voter Apathy, a 2022 study conducted in collaboration with the Kamehameha Schools Strategy and Transformation Group, the Lili ‘u okalani Trust, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Papa Ola Lokahi, found that the majority of Native Hawaiians who participated in the survey planned to vote in the next general election, indicating a nearly identical rate to non-Hawaiian voters.

Although Hawaii has a history of low overall voter turnout in many election cycles, the perception that Native Hawaiians don’t care and don’t vote could add to the sense of complacency, Aki said. By intensifying the civic engagement of Native Hawaiians, both Farden and Aki also hope to encourage community decision makers to address more Native Hawaiian issues.

“Really, my hope is that people understand that Native Hawaiians are organizing, we’re paying attention, and we’re going to vote,” Aki said.

Next week’s “Walk to the Box” signage events are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kalanianaole Beach Park in Nanakuli and 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Waianae Mall. For more information, go to oha.org /vote.——Linsey Dower covers ethnic and cultural issues and is a staff member of Report for America, a national service organization that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on hidden issues. and communities.——

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