Historically, Hawaiʻi has had the worst voter turnout in the Nation. However, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is hoping to stop that trend.
“Our campaign title says it all, “I mana ka leo”, there’s power in our voice,” says Joseph Kūhiō Lewis who is Alakaʻi of OHA’s new campaign, I Mana ka Leo. “So our efforts are focused around empowering young Hawaiians, showing them the value of voting and what they can do in voting to make a difference.
And his Alakaʻi partner, Kamaile Maldonado says that there’s no more time for waiting.
“This is a very important election year and in fact, every year is an important election year, but this one particularly we do have some really major races that are happening right now.”
“We’ve got our only Native Hawaiian senator, who’s been in office a very very long time, who has been a really strong and active voice for all of Hawaiʻi’s people, but especially for Native Hawaiian people and he’s going to be retiring this year, so who’s going to be the next person carrying that torch to speak for Native Hawaiians and to speak for the people of all of Hawaiʻi in the Federal Government?”
And in August, OHA teamed up with Mākaha Studio to release a public service announcement to help impact the number of young voters here in Hawaiʻi for the general election on November 6th.
“We thought that you know, Mākaha Studios especially, they do use young, Native Hawaiians from the Leeward coast as interns and they give them a lot of really creative power and voice in everything that they do”.
“What we kind of did to make it more youth based, it was kind of played around you know, everybody is on Facebook, everybody’s on Instagram, they’re hitting “likes”, they go on YouTube and they’re checking out views so it’s almost like you’re voting. You’re almost saying, yeah, I do like this, or I comment on this, or I have my opinion about this,” says Keoni Fernandez who is the producer/director at Mākaha Studios.
And to make their message even more relatable to young potential voters, they used familiar faces from within our own Hawaiian community.
“So we’re using these celebrities to reach out to the youth to hopefully inspire them,” says Joseph.
“I think they’re going to listen in more rather than being like ahhh, it’s just another you know, year of voting, and I don’t want to mess with it, you know, I have no say,” says Keoni. “As they see all these signs, you know, Lingle, Mazie, and all these people around, they’re going to listen- they’re going to listen in more, how does this person apply to me, what are they going to do for me or my community out in Waiʻanae?
And I think that’s the impact that it did.”
“They got motivated, so now they’re in schools, they’re registering their friends, and really, that’s the kind of atmosphere that we want to create, we want to create momentum and motivate these young people to make a stand, make a difference by reaching out to their peers,” says Joseph.
And according to Keoni, it doesn’t stop here. “The answer to it is for us to educate our communities through these types of things, media, social media to make them more aware.”