Election

Big Island Takes Senate Seat From Oahu in Reapportionment

May 24, 2012, 7:41 AM HST
* Updated June 8, 10:16 AM
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Hawaii elections will move forward as planned as the result of a May 22 ruling by the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii.

The court sustained a reapportionment plan which does not count military and student population, a position that favors the Big Island and will add an additional state senate seat to the island of Hawaii.

The court denied issuing a preliminary injunction. It said that the interests of holding an orderly election and the pressing nature of the 2012 election deadlines outweighed the constitutional representation questions.

At issue was whether or not to count 108,000 non-permanent resident military and their dependents and non-permanent resident students. Counting the non-permanent population would have favored Oahu. Losing the court case means that Oahu will lose one state senate seat.

State law requires that district boundaries be redrawn every 10 years by an appointed reapportionment commission using the most recent US Census data.

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In the past, the process of setting of the boundaries has often had political consequences.

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However this year, not knowing where the district boundaries lie and having a contested reapportionment plan before the court so close to the various election deadlines, played havoc with candidates planning to run for office and their campaigns. It also raised the possibility of chaos in conducting the August primary and the November general elections.

With the June 5 deadline to file nomination papers only days away, the decision put the need to proceed with the election in an orderly fashion ahead of the arguments for counting non-resident students and military.

According to the Hawaii Reporter, The US Census counts non-resident population, and every other state in the nation except Kansas counts this kind of population when drawing election districts. However the numbers for military and students in Hawaii are significantly larger than Kansas, which has only 900 citizens that fit into the contested categories.

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Those who sued to stop the reapportionment plan from going into effect favored counting students and military. They said that the plan as written was unconstitutional and discriminatory.

The court ruling upheld the reapportionment plan as written.

But it is unclear from the 73 page ruling whether the decision only sustains the district lines for this, the 2012 election. It may leave the door open for further action and possible district boundary changes for the 2014 election, which might come as a result of further legal action.

In a May 23 statement, Big Island Senator Malama Solomon wrote:

“We recognize that the case is not over. However, based on the court’s preliminary decision, we are now assured that the local elections will go forward as planned. We deeply appreciate the courts thorough analysis of this matter and we will cooperate with the court on any further hearings that may come before it.”

To read the court’s 73 page ruling on reapportionment click here.

 

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