Calling for initiative and referendum

The Hawaii Office of Elections reported that 66% of registered voters cast a ballot in the 2008 presidential election. According the U.S. Census Bureau, that number was even smaller – just 51.8%, the lowest voter turnout in the nation – even though it was an improvement over the 50.8% of registered voters in the 2004 presidential election. This is one of those times when you don’t want to be #1.

The question is, How can we encourage more people to vote?

Currently, Hawaii has no provisions for statewide initiatives or referendums. Hawaii legislators proposed it in 2001 with HB 1445 and again 2007 with HB 789. The proposed bills failed. 

We need to remind the people of Hawaii that the government’s power comes from us. And that’s why we need the right to call for initiatives and referendums.

Individual laws may seem reasonable when they respond to a problem, but all of the laws put together can start to take over our lives. Initiative and Referendum are the tools we need to hold lawmakers accountable and keep government in check.

Initiative would allow Hawaii voters to put an issue on the ballot to be voted on during a regular election.

For example, it’s perfectly legal to sit in the back of a pickup truck. Our lawmakers haven’t changed the law to require safety restraints, but with the right initiative, we could.

Referendum would allow Hawaii voters to approve or reject a law or constitutional amendment by ballot. It would not allow voters to amend public spending, tax laws, or collective bargaining agreements.

For example, you could get a ticket (and pay a fine) if you don’t wear your seat belt. I think it’s your choice to buckle up or not, except in the case of minor children. But with the right referendum, we could reject the seat belt law and take back a little control over our lives (and our commute).

Our legislators are supposed to represent us. And if they don’t represent us, we need the power to challenge their decisions.

What do you think? Would expanded voting rights get your vote?

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6 Comments on “Calling for initiative and referendum”

  1. January 2011 update: The Hawaii Senate introduced SB272 “Initiative; Referendum; Recall” that “Amends the State constitution to provide for initiative, referendum, and recall;” and the Hawaii House introduced HB195 “Initiative” that “Proposes constitutional amendment to provide for initiative. Establishes provisions governing the initiative process.”

  2. Nala neahru Says:


    As of today December 1, 2011 do you know whether or not we gave the ability in Hawaii for either?

    Thanks for your post

    • Hi Nala, thanks for writing! According to the Hawaii Office of Elections, as of 8/12/11 Hawaii voters cannot create or repeal a law/ordinance, though Constitutional amendments must be approved in a general election. Each county has different laws. You can read the full fact sheet at:

      • Nala neahru Says:

        Thanks Rachelle!!

      • Nala neahru Says:

        So then how do we get something on the general ballot? What about getting initiative/referendum voted on in the next election?

      • From what I understand, our State legislators need to amend the Hawaii Constitution to allow for initiative and referendum; it can also be proposed by Constitutional Convention. I haven’t found a list of legislators who support it, but I know that Senator Sam Slom does — in January 2011 he proposed bill SB272 to amend the State constitution to provide initiative, referendum, and recall.

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