Sunday, October 4, 2015         


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Go west, young politicians, and grow with Hawaii

By Richard Borreca


We are tilting to the west and that will make politicians in the east nervous.

Oahu's population is moving toward the new home areas of Kapolei and Ewa and away from the older areas of Aina Haina to Kalihi.

If to most of us those are just boring Census observations, to the 76 state legislators and Hawaii's two members of Congress, the population shift is all about holding on to their jobs next year.

This is the year for reapportionment and redistricting. The 50 states do it once a decade after the U.S. Census data are reported. We are considered among the less political states because we appoint a panel to draw the new boundary lines.

Some states just let their legislature's majority party divvy up the districts, which is how oddly-carved-out districts favoring a specific politician come about.

In Hawaii, House Speaker Calvin Say, Senate President Shan Tsutsui, House Minority Leader Gene Ward and Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom will each appoint two members of the reapportionment and redistricting panel. The eight will then elect a chairperson and then have 150 days to draw up the new lines.

Redistricting is drawing the actual boundaries for each of the 51 House districts and 25 Senate districts.

Reapportionment means deciding how many House and Senate seats each island gets. Oahu has 35 House seats, the Big Island has seven, Maui has six and Kauai has three.

Tsutsui explains that, "It is all about where the growth is happening.

"You would assume that those districts that are growing will geographically be smaller and those in the urban core will get bigger.

"That could pose a problem," Tsutsui said.

There is already speculation that this year Oahu may lose one or two seats in the House and one Senate seat.

"I think we will lose on Oahu," says Slom, who adds that there will be a lot of interest in how the congressional districts are split.

Past proposals have looked at combining all of East Oahu, including the Windward side, into the same congressional district, which would make it more difficult for a liberal Democrat such as U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to appeal to conservative and Republican voters in Kailua and Kaneohe.

Redistricting sometimes results in two incumbents living in the same district, forcing nominal allies into running against each other, such as what happened in 2002 when Rep. Roy Takumi beat Rep. Nobu Yonamine for a redistricted Pearl City seat.

Back then seven pairs of incumbents were facing each other, causing many to move or run for another office.

And smaller districts means more people can run, giving those who always place second a chance to win.

At ground level, redistricting is as much fun as building a house of toothpicks — but the results always liven up the next election.

Richard Borreca writes on politics every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Reach him at


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