On U.S. and Hawaii constitutional grounds guaranteeing "one man/one vote" equity in representation, I encourage all Hawaii Island residents — and all neighbor islanders — to speak out now against the state Reapportionment Commission decision that robs Hawaii County voters of fair and equitable representation by denying the addition of a fourth senatorial seat for the island.
How serious is this? Given population growth over the past decade, if Hawaii Island continues to have only three senators, each will represent 60,000 residents, where most other state senators will have only about 40,000 to represent. This clearly marginalizes Hawaii County residents’ "voice" in all major decisions affecting their lives. How fair is that?
The specific decision in question is whether to include "nonresident military and dependents, nonresident students and incarcerated felons" in the population data used to determine districts.
First, let me make this clear: I am the sister of a dearly loved fallen soldier who gave his life in Vietnam for the freedoms we enjoy, and am therefore, deeply committed to protecting the rights and interests of our dedicated men and women in uniform. However, to suggest that Hawaii is dishonoring the contribution of our military forces by excluding these "nonresidents" in our population base is a very effective distraction from the real truth, which is that these Americans are just that — "nonresidents." They consider their "homes" to be elsewhere in the U.S. where they are emotionally rooted and where they have permanent residences and where, historically, they vote.
Second, as the current District 1 state senator, appointed to the position by the governor, I have nothing to gain or lose with the addition of a fourth Senate seat for Hawaii Island. However, my constituents have a great deal to lose — as do all neighbor islanders — because a fourth Senate seat for Hawaii Island, which also represents an additional vote for the neighbor islands as a group, can make a huge difference for neighbor islanders who are consistently left out by the Honolulu-centric manner by which our state functions.
Please understand that the question about including "nonresidents" should be moot: The people of Hawaii weighed in on the issue of fair and equitable representation in the reapportionment process with passage of a Hawaii Constitutional amendment in 1992. That changed the population base to be used for reapportionment from "registered voters" to "permanent residents." How can the 2011 Reapportionment Commission simply ignore the state Constitution?
I thank members of the Hawaii, Maui and Kauai County Reapportionment Advisory Councils — and Tony Takitani (the only member of the statewide commission from a neighbor island and the only one who voted "no" on this issue).
The neighbor island advisory councils also did the right thing by voting early on to recommend that Hawaii continue to exclude nonresident military and dependents, nonresident students and incarcerated felons. But this has been totally ignored by the statewide commission, which, by the way is made up of eight Honolulu residents and only one neighbor islander.
I also thank the Hawaii County Committee of the Hawaii Democratic Party for formally requesting that the commission reconsider its earlier decision on this matter.
The next meeting of the Reapportionment Commission is at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Contact the commission today: toll free/neighbor islands: 877-854-6749; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or mail: State Capitol, Reapportionment Project Office, 415 S. Beretania St., room 445, Honolulu, 96813. Make some noise. It’s your right, and responsibility, as an American to be fairly represented.