Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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Groups push for revision to population count

By B.J. Reyes


Big Island lawmakers and other neighbor island groups urged the state Reapportionment Commission Tuesday to reconsider its decision to include nonresident military members and their dependents, along with nonresident students and incarcerated felons, in the population count for purposes of redrawing state political boundaries.

Meanwhile, at a separate meeting Tuesday of the Hawaii island and Maui Reapportionment Advisory Councils, members declined to consider a formal request asking the state commission to reconsider.

"It would be premature at this point," said Madge Schaefer, a Maui advisory council member and chairwoman of the joint council meeting. "They (the state commission) could change their mind."

The state commission voted 8-1 last month to include the nonresident military, student and felon groups in the population counts, reversing decisions made by the last two commissions and preventing Hawaii County from gaining a state Senate seat.

Based on statewide population growth since 2000, Hawaii island is in line to gain a Senate seat if the roughly 70,000 people in the nonresident groups are not counted.

The state commission, which also met Tuesday, took no action on any measures, but one commissioner suggested that a reconsideration of the June vote is a possibility.

Commissioner Terry Thomason had voted in favor of including the nonresident populations, saying he felt there was no accurate way to determine where the military members lived and thus no precise way to determine the districts from which they should be excluded. After getting word that more accurate information on their addresses might be available, Thomason said a revote could be considered.

"If we can get more precise in our count, maybe we can get a revote," he said.

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