Language and State Elections

I have relatives who speak Hawaiian and who were asking me about voting. I thought that since Hawaiian is supposed to be an official language that I could just download and send materials to them in Hawaiian, ‘a’ole pilikia. So I decided to visit the Office of Elections website and I discovered something odd.

While voter information is not available is available in Chinese, Ilocano, and Japanese but its not in Hawaiian–an official language of Hawai’i!

There is another irony with this situation. Voter information is available in Ilocano including ballots. I have no problem with voter information being in Ilocano. My grandfather was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. I’m proud of my Ilocano roots. But there is a certain irony at work here.

A ballot specimen from Hawai’i

The irony is that Ilocano language is not used in elections in the Philippines–not even in Iloco, the homeland of  the Ilocano language.   English and Filipino (Tagalog) are the languages used in Ilocos when it comes to election information.  Why? The Philippines constitutionally only has two official languages, Filipino (Tagalog) and English. Filipino is considered also the national language while English is thought of as being the international language.  Although there are a lot of issues with some Filipinos regarding Tagalog especially those from the central and southern parts of the Philippines, the Philippine government is only following its own constitution.  Ferdinand E. Marcos, better known to many Ilocanos in Hawai’i as “Apo”, “Bong” or “McCoy” and by Hawai’i residents as “the dictator who is married to that shoe lady”, the first Ilocano president of the Philippines actually promoted the use of Filipino (then called Pilipino).

A ballot specimen from the Philippines

So on one hand, the State of Hawai’i’s Office of Election has voter information in three languages including a regional Philippine language which is relevant to a size-able chunk of Hawai’i’s population including former governor and mayoral candidate, Benjamin Cayetano. I applaud inclusion. I think that the Office of Elections should try to ensure that people be properly informed so that they will vote correctly and not waste their ballot because they could not understand it. But on the other hand, while in the Philippines their Commission on Elections produces official information in one or both of its two official languages, shouldn’t Hawai’i’s Office of Election follow the State’s own constitution and ensure that material is likewise produced in its two official and constitutional languages–Hawaiian and English? Shouldn’t they also be making sure that the Hawaiian language, one of the constitutional languages (yes, I’m repeating that point) and the indigenous language of the land, have election material be put up for the voters, too? Or is our indigenous language worth less than the other languages?

For those who still vote in Hawai’i State elections, I humbly also submit to you that if you still vote and can understand basic Hawaiian, please start requesting the ballots and election materials in Hawaiian in order to show the State that there is a need for such materials and that the number of Hawaiian speakers and/or those who love the Hawaiian language are growing.

One thought on “Language and State Elections”

  1. Aloha mai e Adam,Mahalo piha for the beautiful video Heiau. I am a kumu in St. Louis, Missouri. My kumu is Keali'i Ceballos of Keali'i O Nalani. Our halau has it's annual Ho'ike on November 2nd 2013. I have choreographed a hula and felt I should explain to our audience what a Heiau is and why they are so important to the Hawaiian people and the preservation of our ancestors, kapuna and aumakua. Our halau perpetuates all thing pono and I feel your video would help to support our hula. It is my kuleana to share with our community what Hawaiians work so diligently to those on the mainland. With your permission I would like to share your video with an audience of 150 people. I would be pleased to give all credit to you and your craft. I hope to hear from you very soon. Feel free to contact me by phone with any questions.Mahalo nui loa,Malama Pono,Dori Neumeier


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