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Hawaii isle will not gain Senate seat

A state panel decides to count nonresident groups in redrawing political boundaries

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 1:55 a.m. HST, Jun 29, 2011

Nonresident military members and their families along with nonresident students and incarcerated felons will be included in Hawaii's population count when officials redraw state political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the most recent U.S. census.

Tuesday's 8-1 vote by the state Reapportionment Commission reversed the recent practice of excluding those populations and prevented the neighbor islands from gaining a state Senate seat.

If those military and other nonresident populations — as many as 70,000 people — were not counted, it would have shifted a Senate seat from Oahu to Hawaii County.

All are included in the population count when drawing U.S. congressional districts.

Anthony Takitani, a Democratic appointee to the commission and its only neighbor island member, cast the lone vote in opposition.

"The census clearly shows that the growth in the state of Hawaii of permanent residents has taken place on the neighbor islands — enough so that the neighbor islands would be getting another Senate seat," Takitani said. "By now including the military and their dependents, that seat will not be going to a neighbor island."

Takitani lamented that the neighbor islands will be stuck with the current seven seats for the next decade.

Neighbor island advisory councils also had asked the commission to exclude nonresident military and their dependents for state legislative districts, arguing that many in the military do not pay state income taxes or vote in Hawaii because they consider themselves residents of other states.

Most commission members said they did not believe there was any rational basis for excluding the nonresident populations and said they also were uncomfortable with the methodology used for extracting those populations from the census counts.

"I cannot, in good conscience, use imperfect data to exclude people from the census count," said Calvert Chipchase IV, a Republican appointee. "I cannot introduce conjecture into the process."

Harold Masumoto, a Democratic appointee, said he questioned assumptions in models that have been used in the past to extract those populations from the census counts.

He added that "the military really are a part of the community here in Hawaii."

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