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New election maps would shift Senate seat from Oahu to Big Isle

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New political maps being proposed by the state Reapportionment Commission would shift an Oahu Senate seat to Hawaii island and place two Democrats into the same Senate district in the Makiki-Moiliili area.

On the House side, five pairs of incumbents would find themselves in the same districts — two more pairs than originally proposed in the plan that was approved last year but thrown out by the state Supreme Court.

The state Reapportionment Commission meets tomorrow to present the plans to the public. Maps were posted online today.

Under the new plan, Sen. Carol Fukunaga (D, Lower Makiki-Punchbowl) and Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa) would see their districts combined on Oahu, as a new open Senate seat is created in Puna-South Hilo and Volcano, said Dylan Nonaka, a commission member who was on the technical committee that drew up the maps.

Previously, three sets of state representatives landed in the same district. Those representatives would still have to face each other this year under the new plan. They are: Reps. Mark Nakashima and Jerry Chang on the Big Island; Reps. Kymberly Pine and Rida Cabanilla in Leeward Oahu; and Reps. Mark Hashem and Barbara Marumoto in East Oahu.

Also being placed in the same district are Reps. Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-McCully) and Della Au Belatti (D, Tantalus-Makiki); and Reps. Jessica Wooley (D, Laie-Kahuku) and Gil Riviere (R, Schofield-Kahuku).

The Aiea-Pearl City District 33, currently vacant after the resignation of Rep. Tom Okamura, also would encroach on the Newtown-Pearl City District occupied by Rep. K. Mark Takai. Okamura’s replacement would likely be in the same district as Takai, creating a fifth face-to-face contest on Oahu.

There would be five open House districts on Oahu and one on Hawaii island.  

New maps were needed after the Supreme Court on Jan. 4 tossed out the redistricting plan approved last year by the commission. The court sided with Hawaii island plaintiffs who argued that the commission included too many nonpermanent residents — military members, their dependents and nonresident students — in the population count used for determining the number of seats alloted to each island.

Including those nonresidents, plaintiffs argued, maintained a greater population base on Oahu and negated population gains on Hawaii Island that should result in the island gaining a state Senate seat.

Public comment will be accepted at two meetings next week — one each on Oahu and the Big Island — before the commission is expected to approve the plan on Feb. 23.

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