HONOLULU – NerdWallet released a study this week comparing civic engagement in each state. The study sought to determine which states have the most politically engaged voters.
Hawaii came in last – as the least politically engaged state. Only 58.9 of citizens are registered to vote. Only 51.6 percent of citizens voted in the 2012 elections.
However, some Hawaii lawmakers believe this may change in the 2014 election, depending on the sustainability of the momentum from the same sex marriage debate, which continues to rage at the Hawaii state capitol.
There were more than 1,032 people who testified in person before the Hawaii State House Finance and Judiciary Committee, with 895 in opposition and 137 in support. In the Senate, more than 400 people testified in person.
Many said they had never voted before, but would do so now that they had experienced the legislative process firsthand.
Thousands more submitted written testimony for and against the bill and have rallied at the capitol since October 28, when the bill received its first reading by state Senators on the Judiciary and Labor Committee.
The largest rally was October 28, when groups promoting a public vote on the issue came together for a 5-hour rally that attracted more than 12,000 people on three islands.
Hundreds of people stood outside House chambers on Wednesday, November 6, from about 10 a.m. through out the day, chanting “Let us vote!”
They wanted House members who were about to vote on Senate Bill 1 to legalize gay marriage, to instead pass a bill that would allow them to vote on the issue in the next election. Those in favor of legalizing gay marriage had a smaller presence at the capitol.
After several hours of debate, lawmakers passed the bill to legalize gay marriage on second reading by a vote of 30 to 18 with three lawmakers excused.
Here are the votes:
The Senate already passed its version of the bill by a vote of 20-4.
The House and Senate still need to agree on a final version of the bill before it passes both Houses on final reading and is transmitted to the governor for his signature.
The House version gives more exemptions to religious organizations and non-profits to protect them from legal action if they refuse to marry gay couples or let them use their facilities.
Senate Judiciary and Labor Chair Clayton Hee, who introduced Senate Bill 1, and passed it out of his committee without amendments on October 28, by a vote of 5-2, has so far been unwilling to provide broader exemptions.
On November 5, Gov. Neil Abercrombie and State Attorney General David Louie said the amendments outlined in House Draft 1 strike a balance between the bill that was introduced by the Legislature and concerns raised in written and oral testimony during public hearings.
“We support the principle that any measure on marriage equity must protect religious freedom, which the Legislature has clearly worked to achieve,” Abercrombie and Louie said in a statement. “The bill as amended is legally sound and is in accord with the Hawaii State Constitution. We urge the Legislature to pass this bill, which will provide marriage equity and fully recognize religious beliefs in that context.”