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Judges deny reapportionment injunction; election will proceed

By B.J. Reyes

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:31 p.m. HST, May 22, 2012



The 2012 elections may proceed under the reapportionment and redistricting plan approved in March by the state Reapportionment Commission, a federal panel of judges ruled today.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court in Honolulu denied a preliminary injunction being sought by a group that challenged the plan as unconstitutional because it excludes 108,000 so-called "nonpermanent" residents from the population base used to allocate legislative seats among islands and determine boundaries for voter districts.

The plan was approved March 8, and the state Office of Elections began preparatory work for the Aug. 11 primary election soon after. The deadline for candidates to file nomination papers is June 5.

Reapportionment occurs every 10 years to redraw voter district boundaries to reflect changes in the population recorded in the most recent U.S. Census.

The Attorney General's office had argued against the injunction citing previous federal cases that said the state may exclude certain residents from the population base to prevent distortions that might occur if large numbers of temporary residents were counted.

State attorneys also argued that the election planning process was too far along to start over and having to draw new district maps could cause extensive delays and jeopardize the Aug. 11 primary and potentially the Nov. 6 general election.

Robert Thomas, representing the eight voters who filed the challenge, argued that excluding nonpermanent residents — nonresident military members and their dependents along with students who pay nonresident tuition — violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit also contends the commission created districts of unequal size, leading to disproportionate representation in the state Legislature.

Excluding the nonpermanent residents, as the commission had to do because of a state Supreme Court ruling, shifts a state Senate seat to Hawaii island from Oahu.

The judicial panel consisted of U.S. District Judges J. Michael Seabright and Leslie E. Koba­ya­shi of Hono­lulu and 9th Circuit Judge M. Margaret Mc­Keown of San Diego.






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