7 incentives to persuade voters

“Let your voice be heard, every vote counts, and you can make a difference,” Lehua Kalima pleads in an Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) ad.

In the 1959 primary election, the year Hawaii became a state, voter turnout was at an all-time high of 84.4%. In the 2012 primary election, voter turnout was at an all-time low of 42.3%.  

People argued, marched, and fought for the right to vote. Voting is our right, a privilege, and a duty of responsible citizens. We shouldn’t have to beg people to vote. Or do we?

Maybe we’ve become lazy as citizens, assuming that other people will make the right decisions. Maybe we take the right to vote for granted, because we’ve always had a vote. Maybe we need more of an incentive to vote – something tangible, something immediate.

Here are 7 ideas to persuade more people to vote:

1. First-time gift. First-time voters could receive a small gift from the Office of Elections, such as a pen or a t-shirt, as both a thank-you and encouragement to keep on voting.

2. Honor roll. Voters who have voted consecutively in the last 10 elections could be recognized in an open letter to the newspaper, a commemorative pin (like the Blood Bank’s donor pins), or a brunch on Capitol grounds.

3. Free stuff. Polling places could offer free shaved ice or malasadas on Election Day or set up prize wheels to spin for small prizes. Or we could ask local schools and community groups to perform during the day, with music, dancing, or singing (at least we know their families would show up!).

4. Prize drawings. Registered voters could use their ballot stub after voting or receive a scratch-off ticket to win prizes. We could offer lunch with a Councilmember or dinner with a State Legislator. We could partner with business and community sponsors for other prizes, like movie tickets or restaurant gift cards.

5. “Talk story” community picnics. The top three communities with the highest voter turn-out could win a community picnic at a neighborhood park or beach park. No RSVP required – just drop by for some food or to talk with elected representatives.

6. School pride. The top three communities with the highest voter turn-out could earn $5,000 (primary elections) or $10,000 (general elections) for public schools in their neighborhood.

7. Fast-tracked projects. The top district with the highest voter turn-out could have one of their maintenance or community projects fast-tracked, such as park renovations or road repaving, as long as the project has already been approved and budgeted. The start-date would be guaranteed within 60 days of Election Day.

If you vote, would incentives have an impact on your voting? If you don’t vote, would one of these incentives make you fill out a voter registration card? What can we do to encourage people to vote?

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