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Hawaii News

Neighbor isles might challenge reapportionment vote


Neighbor island reapportionment advisory councils meet today to consider challenging a vote last month by the state Reapportionment Commission to include nonresident military members and their families along with nonresident students and incarcerated felons in Hawaii’s population count for purposes of redrawing state political boundaries to reflect population shifts in the most recent U.S. census.

The inclusion of those nonresident populations — about 70,000 people — would prevent Hawaii island from gaining a state Senate seat, based on overall population growth since 2000.

A joint meeting today of the Maui and Hawaii County advisory councils plans to focus on whether legal action is needed to exclude those populations, as has been done in the most recent reapportionment decisions.

Neighbor island lawmakers and others are expected to testify.

In testimony prepared for the meeting, Hawaii island state Sen. Malama Solomon (D, Hilo-Honokaa) argues that the state commission — with only one of nine members coming from a neighbor island — appears to be acting “Honolulu centric.”

“I believe this decision is not about our friends in the military, but about retaining a Senate seat for Oahu, which in turn denies the residents of the fastest growing districts of our state on Hawaii island the right to a fourth senator,” she wrote.

Also calling for the populations to be excluded is the Hawaii County Committee of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, which voted Monday to ask the Reapportionment Commission to reconsider its decision.

The state commission voted 8-1 last month to include the nonresident populations.

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

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.

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

During the most recent reapportionment in 2001, nonresident military members and their dependents were originally included by the state commission, but the nine-member body reversed the decision after the plan was taken out for public hearings.

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