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House dissidents weigh voter district challenge

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New political boundary maps the state Reapportionment Commission approved unanimously Thursday could wind up in court again.

Members of a dissident faction of House Demo­crats say they continue to have concerns about the maps and are weighing all options, including a lawsuit.

Dissidents contend the maps favor the leadership of Speaker Calvin Say, whom they have been trying to oust, because more of their members are in contested races and were placed in districts with higher numbers of constituents who are new to them.

Commission Chairwoman Victoria Marks said she believes the commission was diligent in dealing with concerns raised by the public and that the proposal will stand up in court.


New political maps the Reapportionment Commission approved place seven pairs of incumbent lawmakers in the same districts. They are:

» Sens. Carol Fukunaga (D, Lower Makiki-Punchbowl) and Brian Taniguchi (D, Moiliili-Manoa).

» Reps. Mark Nakashima (D, Hawi-Hilo) and Jerry Chang (D, Piihonua-Kaumana).

» Reps. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point) and Rida Cabanilla (D, Waipahu-Ewa).

» Reps. Mark Hashem (D, Hahaione Valley-Aina Haina) and Barbara Marumoto (R, Kalani Valley-Diamond Head).

» Reps. Scott Saiki (D, Moiliili-McCully) and Scott Nishimoto (D, Kaimuki-Waikiki).

» Reps. Jessica Wooley (D, Laie-Kahuku) and Pono Chong (D, Maunawili-Kaneohe).

» Reps. K. Mark Takai (D, Newtown-Pearl City) and Heather Giugni (Aiea-Pearl City).

House dissidents: Nakashima, Saiki, Nishimoto, Wooley and Takai



Head-to-head matchups create an equal number of open districts:

Open Senate district

» Puna-South Hilo-Volcano

Open House districts

» Diamond Head-Kahala

» Downtown-Bethel-McCully

» Aiea-Waimalu-Pearl City

» Iroquois Point-Ewa Beach

» Mokuleia-Waialua-Mililani

» Kailua-Kona


"We heard concerns. We took the time. We reviewed the alternative maps," said Marks, a retired circuit judge. "We heard input from the public, and where we were able to make changes, we did.

"I think we came up with a better plan because of all the input that we’ve received."

The approval allows the state Office of Elections to move forward with planning for the Aug. 11 primary election. Chief Election Officer Scott Nago had said his office needed the maps by Feb. 29 to prevent putting the election at risk.

"We’re just thankful that we can begin our work," Nago said.

The office must now start establishing precincts, assigning polling places and notifying more than 600,000 registered voters about where they will cast ballots.

Candidates for House and Senate seats may begin filing nomination papers today. The elections office could not process applications until the maps were finalized.

This is the second set of maps the commission approved.

The Hawaii Supreme Court in January said maps cleared last year were not valid. The court sided with Hawaii island constituents, who contended the commission included too many so-called "nonpermanent" residents in the base population count used to allot legislative seats among islands.

Including nonpermanent residents — active-duty military members, their dependents and students from out of state — maintained a greater population base on Oahu and negated growth that should have resulted in Hawaii island gaining a seat in the Senate. Oahu would lose a seat.

Maps were redrawn based on a revised population count that excluded 108,000 nonresidents, shifting a Senate seat to Hawaii island and forcing boundaries of Oahu House and Senate districts to change.

The commission voted 8-0 Thursday to approve the new proposal, with commissioner Elizabeth Moore absent. Moore had said at a meeting Tuesday she would vote against the plan because of the move to exclude those 108,000 nonpermanent residents. Moore and other critics said the exclusion could run afoul of federal law because those residents are denied representation in Hawaii and any other state.

The new maps were presented Feb. 15, but House maps have been redrawn twice since then because of concerns about splitting communities and charges of gerrymandering. The commission made initial changes to keep some communities intact, but the allegations of gerrymandering — drawing lines to unduly favor a person, party or political faction — were then raised by the dissidents.

Under the first revision, seven pairs of incumbents — one in the Senate, six in the House — were placed in the same district, forcing them to run against each other. Four of the House races involved five of the 18 members of the dissident faction.

The final revision maintained one Senate head-to-head race and six more in the House. Again, four of those House races involve five dissidents. But the revision also placed the House Majority Leader, Rep. Pono Chong, into a head-to-head matchup when he previously had not been in one.

Commissioners dismissed the gerrymandering allegations, saying they did the best they could under tight time constraints. They also cited the bipartisan makeup of the commission as a check against any wrongdoing.

"We’ve received input. We’ve tried to deal with that input as best we can," Marks said. "Certainly not everyone’s happy, but that’s just where the chips fall."

Members of the commission are appointed by party leadership in each chamber, except for Marks, who was appointed by the state Supreme Court.

Members and their appointing authority are Lorrie Lee Stone and Anthony Taki­tani, appointed by Senate President Shan Tsu­tsui; Calvert Chipchase IV and Moore, appointed by Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom; Clarice Y. Hashi­moto and Harold S. Masu­moto, appointed by Say; and Dylan Nonaka and Terry E. Thomason, appointed by House Minority Leader Gene Ward.

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