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Voters sue to block political redistricting plan

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 5:06 p.m. HST, Apr 6, 2012

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (Reapportionment), Kostick v Nago, No. CV12-000184-JMS (D. ...

A state legislator and five other registered voters filed a federal lawsuit today, challenging the state's Reapportionment Plan as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The suit says the plan violates the Constitution's equal protection clause by excluding more than 108,000 military members, their families and university students in drawing up boundaries for state legislative districts.

The suit also says even if the exclusions are permissible, the plan does not divide residents equally in the legislative districts.

The lawsuit asks for an injunction preventing the state from implementing the plan and directing the state to come up with another plan that counts the excluded residents.

It asks for three federal judges to hear the case.

The lawsuit could further delay preparations for the Aug. 11 primary election.

The plan wasn't approved until March 8 after an earlier proposal was rejected by the Hawaii Supreme Court and House members who are opposed to the leadership of House Speaker Calvin Say raised questions about gerrymandering — drawing district lines to favor a person or political factions.

State Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago has said his office needs the plan to prepare for the election, including notifying 600,000 registered voters of their polling places.

State. Rep. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City), who is in a district with another incumbent, is among the six plaintiffs who filed the suit against Nago, and the state Reapportionment Commission, its chairwoman Victoria Marks and commission members.

The suit says the plan violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection provision by excluding the residents and the "malapportionment" of the districts.

The plan is the result of successful court challenges to the Hawaii Supreme Court. In January, the court ruled that the commission's earlier plan violated the state constitution's requirement of counting only "permanent residents."

The high court held that non-permanent residents included the military and university students.

In March, the commission followed the high court's ruling and adopted the plan that excluded 108,767 residents, nearly 8 percent of the 2010 Census population, the suit said.

The suit says the ideal population under the plan is 50,061 people for a Senate district and 24,540 people for a House district.

But under the plan, Kauai's Senate District 8 would have 66,805 residents, while the Big Island's Senate District 1 would have 44,666 residents, the suit said.

In the House, House District 5 would have 27,129 residents, while Kauai's House District 15 would have 21,835, according to the suit.

The suit by Honolulu attorney Robert Thomas was in behalf of Takai, former military personnel Joseph Kostick, David Brostrom and Larry Veray, Manoa resident Andrew Walden and Aiea resident Edwin Gayagas.

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