Hawaii Senate committee passes automatic voter registration

HONOLULU (AP) — A bill advanced Tuesday by the Hawaii Senate Judiciary Committee would automatically register to vote eligible U.S. citizens who apply for a driver’s license or state identification card, unless the individual declines to be registered.

Hawaii would be the latest state to adopt automatic voter registration if the measure becomes law. The National Conference of State Legislatures said 20 other states and the District of Columbia had already enacted similar laws as of January. Oregon was the first to do so, in 2016.

The Hawaii bill says officials would not process applications for an identification card or driver's license until an applicant fills in a section related to voter registration. Officials would automatically send an applicant's information to election officials unless the applicant specifically indicates he or she does not want to be registered to vote.

The seven members of the committee unanimously passed the legislation, which heads to the full Senate for consideration.

The State Office of Elections submitted testimony supporting the bill, saying it would increase access to voter registration. It would also help ensure the accuracy of voter registration rolls by sharing data between the driver's license and ID database and the statewide voter registration system, the office said.

Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, a good government group, said the measure would make voter registration rolls more accurate and secure by keeping them updated. It would increase the number of ballots mailed to people's current, correct addresses and well as ensure the names on people's ballots would match the names on their identification.

In addition, Ma said the measure would decrease the number of people who would need to go to in-person voter service centers to register to vote during elections, thus shortening wait times at the facilities.

On Election Day during the 2020 general election, a last minute surge of voters led to hours-long lines at voter service centers in Honolulu and Kapolei.