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Federal court upholds Hawaii reapportionment plan

By B.J. Reyes

LAST UPDATED: 02:18 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2013

The 2012 reapportionment and redistricting plan does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court said in upholding its previous decision to deny an injunction sought by a group of voters that challenged the plan.

In May 2012, the three judges of the U.S. District Court in Honolulu denied a preliminary injunction being sought by plaintiffs 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 2012 August primary and November general elections proceeded under the plan drawn up by the state Reapportionment Commission.

“The (Reapportionment) Commission’s reliance on a permanent resident population base, as ordered by the Hawaii Supreme Court, is permissable under the Equal Protection Clause,” the judges wrote in their ruling, issued Thursday, on the merits of the overall case. “Likewise, the disparities in the size of the Commission’s legislative districts pass constitutional muster.”

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 state 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.

Attorneys representing the eight voters who filed the challenge, argued that excluding nonpermanent residents — non-resident military members and their dependents along with students who pay nonresident tuition — violated 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.

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Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
The three judges on this panel should be identified, as a matter of prudent journalism. 1:08pm.
on July 11,2013 | 01:12PM
false wrote:
Hapa, The names are not secret. This article was the "breaking news" version, hastily written to get the story out as soon as possible. I expect a fuller article will be posted soon.

But since your have deep understanding of "prudent" journalism, I suppose you understand this.

on July 11,2013 | 04:10PM
EwaWarrior wrote:
What does it matter? The legislature is chock full of dumb-o-crats anyway! It's a.one party system bent on expanding the welfare state.
on July 11,2013 | 01:16PM
Mythman wrote:
It would be wiser to work at precluding undue influence over the legislature, in any configuration, by the ali'i trusts, who manipulate it at will through the various chairmen in both houses. This is unfair...
on July 11,2013 | 01:31PM
false wrote:
This is so bogus. It is "rumored" that certain legislators had meetings with some of the reapportionment people. Just take a look at how the districting lines have been drawn. It clearly favors certain people. Someday the truth will come out. I hope that certain legislator gets exposed with the truth.
on July 11,2013 | 01:31PM
false wrote:
Reapportionment is inherently a political process. Hawaii's reapportionment process is better than in many states in that the plan is devised by a bi-partisan plan. So the interests of both the Democrats and the Republicans were taken care of. Well, of the Democrats, those aligned with Speaker Say were taken care of. The group which was NOT protected by the bi-partisan nature of the commission were the House Dissidents and some of them faced stiff challenges as a result. But the Dissidents survived and now control the House. So the effort failed.

But compare this approach with that of more partisan systems like that used in Texas, where the Legislature itself, directly, controls the reapportionment process. The only deals that have to be made (behind closed doors, of course) are within the party with majority control of the state legislature. So in Texas, there were NO protections structured into hte process and the Democrats got shafted across the board. As did Latinos and blacks. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice intervened, but now that the Republican majority on the US Supreme Court has kicked the teeth out of the Voting Rights Act, the Texas Republicans are once again pushing through changes to suppress black and Latino voting.

So kvetch if you want about Hawaii's reapportionment process. But compared to most states, our system is much more fair and transparent.
on July 11,2013 | 03:17PM
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