THG coalition members discuss ‘Elections in the Tech Era’

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Participants and attendees gathered to share ideas and solutions following the Elections in the Tech Era event. From left are HICTA Program Director Dale Aiello, Rep. Kyle Yamashita, (featured speaker) Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago, Rep. Della Au Belatti, THG Executive Director Christine Sakuda, and Hawaii Department of Education Chief Information Officer Brook Conner.

Mere weeks after the Primary Election, THG coalition members were treated to a robust discussion focusing on conducting elections in today’s tech-centric society.

“Elections in the Tech Era” was the latest offering in THG’s free speaker series, held on Sept. 5 at Impact Hub Honolulu and presented in partnership with the State of Hawaii Office of Elections and House Majority Leader Rep. Della Au Belatti.

The conversation featured Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago, who shared ways voter registration has been optimized with today’s tech-savvy population in mind. The event featured an extensive question-and-answer period in which Nago emphasized that underlining all of it was protecting the integrity of election results.

“We live in a society where the public is accustomed to the convenience and efficiency of online services for a wide variety of purposes,” said Nago, whose office’s mission is to provide secure, accessible and convenient elections to citizens statewide. He explained that the State of Hawaii strives to balance engagement and the convenience of voter registration processes with the need to keep core voting functions offline to ensure their security.

With the advent of online and same-day registration, the state now has recorded 726,940 registered voters as of the date of the event, an increase of more than 29,000 since 2016. Since the implementation of the online voter registration system in August 2015, more than 20,000 transactions for new registrations and updates have been processed. Voters may also utilize the system to update their voter registration, check their registration status, locate their polling place and view a sample ballot. Register to vote online here.

Nago also pointed out that federal law prohibits the state from removing voters from the voter database without their expressed permission. This means the total size of the database may not reflect the whole story concerning active registered voters.

A lively discussion ensued after Nago shared concern over conducting actual voting online. Audience members also voiced concern over the integrity of online voting, despite the growing expectation that more and more federal and state government services be accessible over the Internet. At least under current technology, the strategy of keeping the actual voting process, including the voting machines, disconnected from the Internet is the state’s current preference for maximum security.

“We hope interested individuals will take away with them a greater appreciation of how the state can and is driving progress toward modernization and transparency, and how they can get more involved themselves,” said Rep. Belatti.

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