FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 23, 2013
VOTER REGISTRATION CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED:
“Next Generation” Galvanized by Bill 2491 and Pesticide/GMO Issue
LIHUE - Bill 2491, and the issue of the chemical-GMO companies on Kauai more generally, has engaged many people in the political process, including a new generation of young people.
A voter registration drive was first initiated in conjunction with Bill 2491 efforts. With the momentum of Bill 2491’s 6-1 approval vote by Kauai County Council, organizers have now launched a more concerted effort, with bigger plans underway.
“At the Mana March we registered over 100 new voters,” said 26 year-old organizer Aria Juliet Castillo, who was born and raised on the island’s south side. “Our petition drive yielded over five thousand Kauai-based signatories, many who will be working with us on registering more. People are interested in getting involved in local elections, both as voters and candidates.”
This is especially important at a time when voter turnout has been declining on Kauai. A report distributed by the State of Hawaii Office of Elections declares 25,617 Kauai residents voted in the 2012 general election. The report shows a steady and substantial decrease in voter turnout from 94% 1959 to 79% in 1990, to 62.9% in the last 2012 election.
The voter campaign is being driven by a diverse coalition of individuals and organizations, many of whom were first galvanized by Bill 2491, and say that their aim is to bring democratic participation on the island up and to involve “next generation” voters in particular.
As part of the initiative, the new website VoteKauai.org will include information like voting records presented in a very straightforward and accessible manner. It will also provide tools and resources for voter registration drives, and have a sub-component specifically focused on voters under-35.
Tiana Laranio, age-28 and lifetime resident of Kapaa, felt that while the grassroots movement around Bill 2491 has been “empowering,” it has also shown people that “the way politics is done on Kauai really needs to change.”
In addition to registering new voters, Laranio said “We are looking for progressive political candidates who put the ʻaina, health and people first, while also making sure that no one gets left behind. We need candidates who believe that Kauai will take care of its people, and that we can all rise together.”
Hayley K. Ham Young-Giorgio, age 28 with deep generational roots in Haʻena, stated:
I'm always trying to educate myself and I guess by the trust and expectation I have as a young person being brought up on Kauai, I'm disenchanted by some of the leadership that has put Kauai in its current circumstances, especially with regards to land management. Bill 2491 is a step, but a step forward, none-the-less. It's forcing people to strengthen their integrity and hone in on the generational effects of the decisions they make. We want leaders who realize how delicate life can be, and sincerely take into account not just the quality of their own lives, but the quality of those who will eventually take their places.
Mason Edmonds, age 26, who was born and raised on Kauai and studied agriculture at University of Hawaii Manoa, said “There is a lot more work to do on the issue of the chemical-GMO industry on our island, but we are also concerned about related issues like development and the loss of ag land, water rights, the backdoor influence of GMO and other private sector insiders getting preferential access to our State lands, and much more.”
Edmonds said he started getting involved in the issue on Kauai when he approached the Agribusiness Development Corporation about doing a 50-acre stone-fruit farm on higher elevation westside land, and was told that all the land was tied-up in long-term leases with the chemical companies. “I started to understand that it’s not just about going out and starting a farm — we have to actually make political change if we want to feed the island.”
ʻOhana O Kauai Director Elijah Frank said:
Many people feel that the world is changing and there is nothing we can do about it; our voice goes unheard by our leaders and our vote does not make a difference. Together our voices will be heard. We want to create a future for our keiki that we are proud of. We want the values of stewardship and malama ‘aina to be more than just a political catch phrases.
Our children learn by watching us. They need to experience what it means to be stewards of the land; they need to see great leadership in action.