Filipinos Have A Golden Opportunity to Reverse Voting Trends and Spike Voter Turnout this All-Mail Election

The first all-mail voting (plus in-person voting at limited voter service centers) could be the dramatic change finally to boost voter turnout in the Filipino and traditionally low-voter turnout communities. At least, that is what leaders in the Filipino community and voting officials are hoping.

Filipinos are and have been just as politically minded as most other ethnic groups in Hawaii, in part as a carryover from high political engagement in the Philippines. The majority of Filipino voters in Hawaii are still immigrants; and it’s common to hear politics among this group’s major topics of discussion.

But high interest has not always translated to high voter turnout.

Voter turnout in Filipino Districts
While the Hawaii Office of Elections does not track voter turnout by ethnicity. One way to gauge Filipino voting trends is by looking at voter turnout in neighborhoods with high concentration of Filipino residents; and compare those raw numbers to other districts not highly populated with Filipinos. Each state representative district has an average of over 50,000 and are carved in a way to have fairly equal number of residents. So for statistical purposes, the base starting point is assumed to be fairly even.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

In the last 2018 General, first let’s look at a few State House districts not highly concentrated with Filipinos:

District 17 (HAWAII KAI-KALAMA VALLEY) total turnout = 11,110

District 50 (KAILUA-KANEOHE BAY) total turnout = 9,371

District 36 (MILILANI MAUKA-MILILANI) total turnout =9,615

Now, compare those numbers with a few districts with higher concentration of Filipino residents in the same election:

District 30 (KALIHI KAI-KAPALAMA) total turnout = 3,167

District 40 (EWA, EWA BEACH) total turnout = 8,850

For more sampling, that same year 2018, but in the Primary, turnout showed:

District 38 (WAIPAHU) total turnout = 3,360

For a sampling looking at a longer historical trend, look at the 2016 General Election


The results do, in fact, suggest what many Filipino leaders and academics have been saying that voter turnout is low among Filipino registered voters. In a district race, low turnout is consequential; but in large island-wide or state-wide races like governor, Honolulu mayor, or U.S. Senate — low turnout of Filipino voters becomes more disadvantageous even though their community represent the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii.

Attempts have been made on certain election years for massive voter registration and turnout drives, particularly in the years Ben Cayetano ran for governor and reelection. There were bus and carpool transportation made available in some districts for voters; as well as voter registration drives at community events. Voter registration is still a feature at some events, but not as many of late.

Other variables
Lower voter turnout could also be a socioeconomic issue, not just an ethnic one. Take a look at a district with lower median income and not highly populated with Filipinos but have low voter turnout as well – District 44 (WAIANAE, MAKAHA, MAILI) total turnout 4,660 in the last General Election.

Filipinos with higher education and income levels who do not live in neighborhoods with high concentration of Filipino residents could very well have high voting rates. Many of them live in neighborhoods like Manoa, St. Louis Heights, Hawaii Kai.

It also appears that Filipinos are not as cluster-oriented as in the past and are increasingly living in mixed neighborhoods where there are sizeable Filipino populations: Downtown, Makiki, Foster Village, Moanalua, Aiea, Pearl City, Kapolei, Kaneohe, Makakilo, to name a few

The Filipino electorate is also changing dramatically among millennials with a huge mixed-race Filipino population. Their political values could be far different from their parents or grandparents.

It’s probable that in the next 20+ years, current models that speculate ethnic voting by districts could be even S less reliable and the only way to measure voting turnout would be if the Office of Elections tracked voting by ethnicity – which would not happen, nor should it.

2020 Turn the Tide
Our Filipino community has a golden opportunity to flex its political muscle comparable to its population in this all-mail election. One goal should be to have districts with high Filipino populations spike their numbers to where they are at least one-third to double of what they have been in the past. This should send a strong message to politicians. Why does this matter? So that our political values and priorities will be taken more seriously.

Spike those numbers and the next mayor of Honolulu will know that our community was pivotal to his or her election. The Honolulu mayor’s race is critical to getting our community back on track and working. We’ve been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 with our overrepresentation in tourism. Economic diversification is a critical long term goal, realistically. Let’s elect someone who can work on diversification as well as getting fast results in boosting tourism and expanding tourism-related markets. Also, critical is making sure that, that leader will keep our hotel workers safe.

Please remember to vote!

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