Hawaii's Redistricting News
West Hawaii Today: "Judge denies motion in
reapportionment challenge." February 16, 2003
HILO - Big Island residents challenging the 2001 county reapportionment failed to clear another hurdle Friday but pledged to pursue their lawsuit.
David Holzman, Richard Boyd, Ole Fulks and Edward Clark did not convince Third Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura to grant a motion for partial summary judgment.
Honolulu Attorney Jack Schweigert, representing the Kailua - Kona, North Kohala and Puna residents, argued unsuccessfully Friday that the county Reapportionment Commission is an executive body subject to the administrative rules outlined in Chapter 91 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes.
Under those rules, before the reapportionment plan was adopted, the commission would have had provide 30 days notice of public meetings held around the island. Then, after its reapportionment plan, Mayor Harry Kim would have had to sign off on the plan and forward it to the lieutenant governor.
Schweigert argued the commission referred to its compliance with the statute's rules when announcing public meetings in published notices. He said at least one notice was published 12 days before a meeting when the rules call for 30 days' notice.
The county, represented by Deputy Corporation Counsel Pat O'Toole, argued the Reapportionment Commission erred in referring to Chapter 91 HRS and the commission doesn't comply with state law, it complies with the County Charter.
Although commissioners are appointed by the mayor, O'Toole said the County Charter lists the Reapportionment Commission under the legislative, not the executive branch.
Because the commission isn't an executive agency, board or commission outlined in the state statute, it does not have to comply with the statute's rules, including giving 30 days notice of a meeting, O'Toole argued.
"One would think it would fall under the executive branch," said Nakamura, before noting that the County Charter defines the Reapportionment Commission under the legislative branch. He then denied the motion for partial judgment.
Schweigert after the hearing maintained his clients "absolutely have a case," despite Nakamura's ruling. He called the motion for partial judgment "a shortcut" being "the simplest, tightest, easiest argument to make."
Holzman, Boyd, Fulks and Clark maintain the Reapportionment Commission committed "gerrymandering" when drawing district boundary lines last year.
Gerrymandering describes dividing district boundary lines to give a political party advantage over others, or to concentrate the voting strength in as few districts as possible.
The opponents of last year's reapportionment plan maintain commissioners drew the boundary lines to ensure that Hilo retained four seats on the County Council, rather than the two called for by its population.
Schweigert claimed Friday that commissioners "stole or 'cockaroached' (sic) population from Puna to give them the necessary base to have four council seats in Hilo."
"If they left Puna alone, and not tinkered with the lines, Puna would have two seats" on the council," Schweigert said.
He pointed out that Puna has one district representative, and another who also represents Ka'u and South Kona in a district that spans more than 100 highway miles.
In June, a judge upheld the Reapportionment Commission's plan in a separate lawsuit filed by Citizens for Equitable and Responsible Government (CERG).
CERG, a government watchdog group based in Kailua - Kona, maintained the commissioners should not have counted military dependents and non - resident University of Hawaii - Hilo students as a part of the Big Island's population.
Third Circuit Court Judge Riki Mae Amano denied CERG's motion for summary judgment and ruled the commission did not act illegally in determining the island's population base. Amano's decision is reportedly being appealed.
Several CERG members were at Friday's hearing.
County Clerk Al Konishi, who also attended the hearing, called Nakamura's decision a "final validation" for the nine commissioners who volunteered their time to draw the district boundary lines.
"The judges vindicated the work of the commissioners," Konishi said.
Hawaiíi's winner-take-all elections may be one reason for low voter turnout, and radically new ways of setting up elections could re-energize voter turnout, some political theorists suggest.
On the other hand, radically different kinds of elections could erode public trust in the voting process, and actually reduce participation, others say.
Small groups of political scientists are studying examples of such techniques as cumulative voting, proportional voting and instant runoffs.
Such alternative systems are viewed in some circles as ways to give voters more control over the results of an election - and herefore a way to interest more voters into showing up at the polling places.
"Almost any other system is an improvement over our winner-take-all system," said Steven Hill, western regional director for the Center for Voting and Democracy.
But all of those systems require new, more complex counting mechanisms and could be counterproductive because they can be difficult to understand, said University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu history professor Dan Boylan.
"I think that you must have the confidence of the people in the voting system," he said.
Boylan said he would support an instant runoff, which would not allow a candidate to be elected without a majority of votes.
In a race for one seat with more than two candidates, a voter would rank his candidates. If his favorite candidate is the last-place candidate in first-choice voting, his second choice is applied.
In examples used by those proposing the system, an instant runoff might have changed the outcomes of the 1992 and 2000 presidential elections.
In 1992, Bill Clinton won with less than a majority over George Bush Sr. and Ross Perot. But if third-place Perot's voters had overwhelmingly selected Bush as their second choice, he could have ended up with a majority of the votes in an instant runoff.
Similarly, in 2000, if most of third-place Ralph Nader's voters had selected Al Gore as their second choice, he could have won the election without the unpleasantness of Florida's recounts.
As it ended up, the instant runoff folks say, in both 1992 and 2000, the people got the candidate who got the most electoral votes, but who was voted against by a substantial majority of American voters.
Another benefit of the instant runoff system is that people would not feel a vote for their favorite candidate would be wasted, said University of Hawai'i political science professor Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller.
"It would have increased the Nader vote. There still would have been another chance. It gives people a chance to vote their conscience and then to back themselves up," he said.
State elections administrator Dwayne Yoshina said he likes the idea, but lacks the power to implement it. That would take either action by the state Legislature or a constitutional convention, he said.
"The law says the person with the largest number of votes will prevail," Yoshina said.
Other alternative systems include:
Choice voting . This system can be used in multiseat elections. Here is one way it can work:
If there are five candidates for two seats, and no one gets enough first-place votes to win outright on the first round, then the fifth-place candidate is eliminated and on ballots listing him or her first, the second-choice candidate votes are added to the remaining candidates. At this point, if no candidate has enough votes, then the fourth-place candidate is eliminated and his or her second-place votes are applied to the top three. It doesn't matter how many candidates or seats there are. The process continues until successful candidates are selected.
Cumulative voting . This system, which would work in multiseat districts, allows the voter to cast as many votes as there are seats open in a race, and to vote them all for one candidate, or spread around a few favored candidates.
For instance, this year there are 29 candidates for the Kaua'i County Council's seven seats, all running at large. As it stands now, Kaua'i voters can vote for seven or fewer candidates, each time only once. Under a cumulative voting system, Kaua'i voters would have seven votes to use as they see fit, even if one or two candidates get all the votes.
This system gives minority candidates a better chance of being elected, supporters argue. Minority groups can concentrate their voting strength on a few candidates, and ensure they will have a voice in the body. Cumulative voting is commonly used in shareholder voting for members of boards of directors, to ensure that minority shareholders can have a voice on the board.
Hill uses the example of Amarillo, Texas, where 60 percent of the population is white, and neither blacks nor Hispanics had ever been represented on the local school board until cumulative voting was established.
In the first election after cumulative voting, one African-American and one Latino were elected, Hill said.
Related voting systems are in place in other communities in Texas, Alabama, Illinois and Massachusetts.
Instead of candidates focusing their attention only on a small group of centrist undecided voters, these voting systems require them to talk to all the voters, and "voters can feel more connection to the candidates," Hill said.
Boylan has other suggestions, such as allowing someone who shows up to the polls to vote without registering beforehand. He believes people should receive a tax credit for voting and a tax penalty for not voting. He also suggested that voting be made mandatory and those who don't vote would face a fine.
But Boylan said he despairs of some of these changes getting through the Legislature, because they can threaten legislators who benefit from limiting electors to those who put them in office.
"You'll never get significant capital spending reform or significant changes in election policies in an elected legislature. They won't do it. It threatens their jobs," he said.
A constitutional convention might be able to make the changes, he said. And if it did, and there were increases in voting by the young, poor and undereducated - people who rarely vote now - things would change, he said.
How to register to vote:
To register to vote, you need to fill out and send in a voter registration affidavit.
You will find one in any Verizon phone book, and on O'ahu in the 2002 Paradise Pages. Just tear it out or make a copy.
Forms are kept at all City or County Clerk's offices, U.S. Post Offices, public libraries and many state offices. There's a copy in the State of Hawai'i tax booklet. You also can register when you apply for or renew your driver's license. The form can be downloaded from the State Office of Elections Web page.
Deadlines for registering to vote in the 2002 elections are Aug. 22 for the primary election and Oct. 7 for the general election.
Aug. 22: Last day to register to vote for the Primary Election
Sept. 9: Walk-in absentee polling places open for Primary Election. They close Sept. 19.
Sept. 13: Last day to request absentee mail-in ballots for Primary Election
Sept. 21: Primary Election
Oct. 7: Last day to register to vote for General Election
Oct. 22: Walk-in absentee polling places open for General Election. They close Nov. 2.
Oct. 29: Last day to request absentee mail-in ballots for General Election
Nov. 5: General Election
For special assistance or more information call the state Office of Elections at (808) 453-VOTE (8683).
A state panel has approved new legislative boundaries that puts seven pairs of incumbents in the same districts, which leaves four state House seats and three Senate seats without any incumbent for next year's elections.
Also yesterday, the 2001 Reapportionment Commission approved new district lines for Hawaii's two U.S. House seats, and a plan to stagger the 25 state Senate seats up for election next year.
"Overall, the commission did well to listen and get rid of canoe districts and for keeping communities intact as much as possible," said Jimmy Toyama, Oahu chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. A canoe district is one that includes areas from two different islands.
Maps of the new redistricting plans will not be available until early next week.
Those legislators who now find themselves living in the same district with another incumbent are state Reps. Charles Djou and David Pendleton, both Republicans, as well as Democrats Terry Nui Yoshinaga and Ed Case, Felipe Abinsay and Ben Cabreros, and Roy Takumi and Nobu Yonamine.
Sharing new political boundaries in the Senate are Democrats Rod Tam and Suzanne Chun Oakland, Les Ihara and Matt Matsunaga, and David Matsuura and Lorraine Inouye. An earlier plan had Republican Sens. Sam Slom and Fred Hemmings in the same district, but it was later changed.
Slom told the commission yesterday he never asked for any changes and remains upset the panel split his Hawaii Kai community. "You don't break up communities," he said.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Jill Frierson said there was a tremendous clockwise shift of Oahu's 18 Senate districts during the redistricting process that forced the Waimanalo Senate district to swing around Makapuu and into Hawaii Kai.
The new boundaries that now divide the community were considered the most reasonable choice, she said.
What was deemed unreasonable by Toyama and others yesterday was the commission's decision to exclude nonresident military dependents from the population when creating the new districts. This panel included this group earlier this year but reversed its decision after public criticism.
Mililani resident Scott Smart, a retired Navy serviceman whose wife is on active duty, told the commission its decision may violate federal law and open up the redistricting plan to a legal challenge.
But Jim Hall, a former state reapportionment commissioner and researcher for the House Minority, said the state has never included nonresident military in its reapportionment base and that the U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld that decision.
The commission is expected to deliver the new plans to the chief election officer on Dec. 14 and will make a final report to the state Legislature in mid-January. At that time, the nine-member, bipartisan panel will complete its work.
Plans call for the Office of Elections to assume control of the commission's interactive Web site and build on it over the next decade.
Already five weeks behind schedule, the 2001 Reapportionment Commission is expected to vote tomorrow on new political district maps that will remain in place until 2011.
Up for approval are new district boundaries for Hawaii's two U.S. House seats and 76 state legislative seats, as well as a formula to stagger the 25 state Senate seats so only half are up for election at any one time.
Members of the bipartisan panel say Hawaii's reapportionment process went beyond what is required this year when the panel reversed an earlier decision and redrew new maps without multi-island or canoe districts and excluded nonresident military dependents from the population base.
The commission held a second round of statewide public hearings before it put the finishing touches on the redistricting maps last night.
"I would say it's an excellent plan," said Jill Frierson, commission vice chairwoman.
"It accomplishes two really important things, one of which is new. And that was to eliminate, once and for all, canoe districts outside of county lines," Frierson said, noting the other accomplishment was the way it determined the population base.
Commissioner David Rae said removal of most canoe districts answered a lot of concerns about splitting communities between islands. He called the process fair and dynamic compared with most other states where its Legislature -- and thus its controlling political party -- decide how to redraw the political districts.
Locally, a computerized interactive mapping system made drawing new boundaries much quicker and easier than a decade ago, when slower computers made it difficult to make any changes once proposed district maps were printed.
David Rosenbrock, reapportionment project manager, said this new system gave the commission more time to consider its decisions -- which it did.
"The (state) Constitution only calls for one set of hearings, and that really gives them the latitude to do what the heck they want," Rosenbrock said.
"And I think this commission -- because of the technology -- has had the opportunity to make a decision, reconsider that decision based on public testimony, and go back," he said.
Technology aside, the commission may ask the state Legislature to approve a constitutional amendment that defines exactly what is a "permanent resident" for reapportionment purposes. Currently, that decision is left to the commission.
The lack of a clear-cut definition cost the panel valuable time this summer. Initially, the commission voted 5-4 in August to include nonresident military dependents in the population base. But a month later, after receiving criticism at public hearings, it reversed itself and removed these dependents from the mix.
The commission plans to submit its final redistricting plan to the Office of Elections on Dec. 14.
The city Reapportionment Commission is close to finishing its task of remapping the city's nine Council districts but has yet to decide whether it wants to split a community into two districts.
The nine-member commission will hold a public hearing in the third-floor City Council chambers of Honolulu Hale at 7 p.m. Thursday after recent hearings in Waipahu and Kaneohe.
The Waipahu meeting proved to be the most explosive of the two public hearings as members of the Kapolei-Makakilo and Ewa districts squared off on the viability of two plans now before the commission.
Both plans are slight variations on what's called the Kaena-Makapuu plan or dual-point plan because they split the island at Kaena Point and Makapuu Point.
Kaena-Makapuu A separates Makakilo from the Waianae-Kapolei region and puts Makakilo in a district that includes Mililani and Waipahu.
In response to outcry from Makakilo-Kapolei residents, Kaena-Makapuu B was drafted. It returns Makakilo to the Leeward district but splits the Ewa community into two segments, with part going with the Waianae district and the other portion with Waipahu.
But the B configuration, which places a district line down the middle of most of Fort Weaver Road and then through Hanakahi Street in Ewa Beach, is opposed by some in the Ewa community.
The issue arises because the law requires the largest district to not have more than 10 percent higher population than the smallest district.
State Rep. Willie Espero (D, Ewa-Waipahu) is among those opposed to Plan B.
"Ewa Villages (and) Ewa Beach have a history," Espero said. "Historically it's connected."
Additionally, he said, the growth occurring in Ewa's new subdivisions all share the same issues.
While Kapolei and Makakilo can be viewed as one community, he said, they also have distinct differences because Makakilo has existed for nearly 40 years while Kapolei was created a decade ago, Espero said.
But Maeda Timson, a member of the Makakilo/Kapolei/ Honokai Hale Neighborhood Board, said the Makakilo-Kapolei community would be hurt, if split.
Timson said Makakilo residents purposely worked for more than three decades to develop Kapolei as part of an incorporated community. "I think the harm is that we're going to have to deal with Council people from two different areas," she said.
The commission shouldn't take either the A or B plans, she said, but go back to the drawing board and try to resolve the concerns of both communities.
Commission Chairman Kerry Komatsubara said the panel is close to wrapping up its work and is hoping to have a final plan approved at its Nov. 14 meeting. It has until the end of the year to come up with a final map.
Komatsubara noted, however, that changes are still being made to reflect issues raised by the public. For instance, a minor adjustment is being made to the two Windward districts to keep a community intact.
The 2001 Reapportionment Commission has unveiled new neighbor island legislative district maps expected to be in use for the next 10 years.
Proposed new district lines for Oahu will be released at a meeting Tuesday.
As requested by the commission earlier this month, officials presented new redistricting maps based on the basic island unit plan required in the state constitution. The plan does away with most multi-island or canoe districts and is set on a new resident population base that excludes nonresident military dependents.
The new neighbor island maps show Hawaii County will get three Senate seats and seven House seats -- one more House seat than it has now.
Kauai and Niihau will be represented by just one full Senate seat instead of 1 1/2 seats, but the trade-off will be a third full House seat that is currently shared with Maui.
The Valley Isle will gain a third full Senate seat and keep six House seats. The Maui Senate districts include a new West Maui-South Maui seat, as well as an East Maui-Molokai-Lanai and Kahoolawe district. West Maui and South Maui will gain separate House seats.
Commission Chairman Wayne Minami said yesterday that Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe were linked with rural Hana, Maui, instead of West Maui, for a better fit in that island unit.
"One of the issues raised (in testimony) was, 'If we're going to be canoed, canoe us with a like interest,'" Minami said.
On Oahu, some lawmakers are bracing for changes in their districts. Sen. Rod Tam (D, Nuuanu) said his Downtown-Nuuanu district might be altered to include part of Waikiki.
Tam believes he's being targeted by the Democratic "old-boy network," which wants to force him out of office when he runs for re-election next year. Tam won a close Democratic primary race in 1998 and at times has been at odds with the political party during his 19-year career as a legislator.
"I will always be a people's advocate," Tam said.
Another possible new Senate district may overlap the current districts of Senate Republicans Sam Slom (Hawaii Kai) and Fred Hemmings (Waimanalo).
Other Oahu legislators say they have not seen any new map for the island, but some were told their districts would not change much.
Minami said he has not spoken with any legislator about the new Oahu map. Nevertheless, he reiterated his position that there is nothing wrong with knowing where incumbents live while redrawing legislative boundaries because they were elected by the people who live there.
Minami said he is comfortable with the new redistricting plan. The final test will be another round of statewide public hearings in November to get public testimony to fine-tune the district lines before final approval, he said.
"I don't think we'll change our population, and I think we're set on no canoes (districts)," Minami said.
By law, the commission was to have filed a final reapportionment plan with the chief elections officer today. A new deadline has been set for Dec. 14.
State election officials say the redistricting process may create a logistical nightmare for them if it continues beyond Feb. 1, 2002, the day candidates can begin taking out nomination papers for the 2002 elections.
That's because candidates still won't know the exact boundaries of the districts they want to represent. Nearly all seats in public office are up for election next year.
"How is someone going to run if he doesn't know where the districts are?" said chief elections officer Dwayne Yoshina.
Yoshina told the Elections Appointment and Review Panel on Tuesday the 2001 Reapportionment Commission may not approve a final plan until late January, possibly delaying the date when people can officially file their candidacy for public office.
"What's going to happen if they do that is those guys are not going to be able to pick up (nomination) papers. So that's going to be tough for candidates," Yoshina said.
The Reapportionment Commission will intentionally miss its constitutionally mandated deadline tomorrow to approve a final redistricting plan. The bi-partisan panel wants to consider a new legislative map that eliminates most multi-island or canoe districts and uses a population base that excludes non-resident military dependents.
Its chairman, Wayne Minami, has said he intends to also hold public hearings on this plan -- a slow, deliberate process that could push final approval of a new legislative map into late January.
The commission held statewide hearings on another plan in September, but that map has fallen out of favor with a majority of commissioners.
Meanwhile, Yoshina warned voters in the 2002 elections their polling places may change because of redistricting. It is a problem that happens every ten years and causes a lot of confusion among voters who often focus their frustration at precinct and election officials.
Other changes in next year's elections may be the inclusion of new languages on the ballots. Currently, English, Filipino and Japanese are printed on state ballots, but the U.S. Justice Department may require the state add Korean, Samoan, Vietnamese and possibly Spanish, based on the population results of Census 2000.
Yoshina said Electronic Systems
Software is under contract for three more election cycles in Hawaii. Overall, he said, Hawaii has one of the better voting systems in the country.
In 1998, seven ES
S vote-counting machines malfunctioned during the general election, which forced the Legislature to demand a recount. The recount of 412,000 ballots in close races verified the elections and showed the optical scanning ballots machines to be 99 percent accurate.
Maui, and possibly Hawaii, could gain representation in the state House at Oahu's expense under a new redistricting map that now excludes nonresident military dependents from the base population.
The new reapportionment plan, which will be ready for review by the commission and the public in about two weeks, also places legislative districts into four basic island groups, eliminating the need for multi-island or "canoe" districts, except for those that naturally occur within basic island groups, such as Kauai and Niihau.
The 2001 Reapportionment Commission yesterday reversed an August decision and removed 53,261 nonresident military dependents from the population base used to equally divide the legislative districts. Opponents had argued since most of these dependents live on Oahu, it gave the island more representation than it should have.
Commission Chairman Wayne Minami, who this past summer had agreed with the four Democrats on the bi-partisan panel to include these military dependents, changed his vote after a review of the state Constitution as well as overwhelming opposition to their inclusion at public hearings last month.
"I did the right thing," Minami said.
The former state attorney general said his interpretation of reapportionment under the state Constitution, which requires apportionment of legislative districts based on the number of permanent residents, clearly states active military and their dependents can't be considered permanent residents just because they are stationed here.
That means the commission cannot assume nonresident military dependents could be permanent residents of the state. Rather, the burden is on them to prove they are, he said.
Minami said he believes the changes will result in Maui gaining another full state House seat from Oahu. Hawaii Republican Party Chairwoman Linda Lingle, who watched yesterday's proceedings, said she believes Maui and Hawaii each will gain a House seat from Oahu.
Lingle praised Minami for his leadership and for taking the new map out for another round of public hearings -- surprising openness by a state reapportionment panel.
"I think you're going to come up with a plan that is really in the public interest, and is fair," Lingle said.
Minami's swing vote was welcomed by the panel's four Republicans, who have lobbied since this summer to get the Democratic majority to agree to a map that truly reflected the state's population shift toward the neighbor islands and away from Oahu.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Jill Frierson said it was a "huge mistake" to include these dependents when the testimony presented at the hearings was so overwhelming against doing so. Not one nonresident military dependent testified at any of the 11 hearings to defend their inclusion in the population base, she said.
Democrat appointee David Rae, however, said removing these dependents takes away their fundamental right to be represented.
State Reapportionment Commission Chairman Wayne Minami said the panel will miss its constitutionally mandated Oct. 26 deadline to adopt a new redistricting map for the state's 76 legislative districts.
That's because he expects the bipartisan panel will hold another series of statewide public hearings to get comment on two other possible maps: one that does away with multi-island or "canoe" districts, and another that redraws political boundaries excluding the 53,261 nonresident military dependents who now are part of the population base used to equally divide the districts.
"If the choice is to just come out with a plan and adopt it, then I'm willing to say we're going to do it right, and we're going to come up with a plan and take public hearings," Minami said after yesterday's commission meeting.
"The final product, even if it is past the deadline, should be a better product as a result of the process we followed," he said.
The nine-member commission's willingness to consider literally going back to the drawing board signals a possible shift on the panel.
On Aug. 9, the four Republican-appointed commissioners voted against the current plan because it included the nonresident military dependents. But the five-member Democratic majority won, and that plan was taken to public hearings this past month.
Minami would not say yesterday if someone in the Democratic majority had switched position, only that there was strong bipartisan support, especially from neighbor-island residents, to exclude those military dependents from the population base.
Neighbor-island residents, especially those on Maui, strongly opposed their inclusion, and some had threatened legal action if those dependents were kept in the final reapportionment plan.
Commissioner Deron Akiona, a Republican appointee, said yesterday he is concerned including those dependents may jeopardize millions of dollars in federal impact aid to Hawaii because the state would consider them permanent residents.
The commission will vote next Thursday on a motion to exclude the military dependents.
Also yesterday, the commission ordered its technical committee to come up with a new plan for possible approval Thursday that eliminates the eight canoe districts now in the proposed redistricting map. Commissioners were never happy with the use of canoe districts and want to see if they can remove them by confining districts to four basic island groups, Minami said.
Reapportionment Project Manager David Rosenbrock explained this is possible because under the current plan requiring canoe districts, the counties would have enough constituents to qualify for only one-half a House seat each. Additionally, Kauai and Hawaii would be left with a constituent base qualifying each for one-fourth of a Senate seat.
Rosenbrock said if Kauai and Hawaii counties give up that one-fourth Senate seat, they each would gain a full House seat. Conversely, if Oahu and Maui give up their one-half House seat, they each would gain a full Senate seat.
"In this way, combined representational equality is maintained among the counties, and canoe districts are eliminated," Rosenbrock said.
The public has asked the commission not to consider where incumbents live when it once more redraws the legislative maps. Minami, however, said he sees nothing wrong with knowing where legislators live and does not see the panel's role as eliminating incumbents.
Minami said that if possible, he wants to avoid having major changes in district lines because many residents would then end up going to different polling places with unfamiliar candidates and incumbents.
North Shore Kauai residents have strongly urged the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission to abandon its plan to create a new multi-island district linking North Kauai with Northeast Oahu.
At a commission hearing in Lihue on Monday, dozens of Kauai voters told the commission it was time to abolish districts that combine voters from different islands.
North Shore Kauai currently shares legislators with east Maui. Rep. Mina Morita lives on Kauai. Sen. Avery Chumbley lives on Maui. Kauai has two House districts and one Senate district entirely on the island in addition to the canoe districts, which are called that because someone would have to travel by water from one end of a district to the other.
The redistricting proposal calls for retaining the districts entirely on Kauai, abolishing the Kauai-Maui canoe district and creating new North Kauai-Northwest Oahu canoe districts.
The commission staff said it is bound by a federal court ruling requiring districts to have equal populations, within a 10 percent variance.
But Kauai residents pointed out the federal courts have approved districts that have much greater variances if there is a "rational basis" for disproportionate districts.
Morita did not appear but submitted testimony in which she said, "One cannot escape the perception that this reapportionment plan is driven solely to benefit the island of Oahu, thus making the entire process suspect."
All the commission members live on Oahu, she pointed out.
"A canoe district unfairly discourages people from participating in the system," said Kauai Councilman Gary Hooser.
Several argued a canoe district links people who have no common interests.
"The people on Oahu are not our neighbors. We don't know them," said Martin Rice. "They might as well be living on the mainland."
Commission members provided no response to the testimony.
They are scheduled to vote on the plan on Oct. 25.
The chairman of the 2001 Reapportionment Commission believes the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon shouldn't stop Hawaii residents from focusing on a new redistricting plan.
"I think it is a matter of great importance to the state, and I would hope people would focus on it and give us their input because we need to get that in order to come up with our final plan," said Wayne Minami, a retired banker, after spending three days stranded in Hilo last week because of the shutdown in air travel.
The nine-member panel heard from a dozen people last night at Ala Wai Elementary School, the third of 11 meetings scheduled on a map that redraws the state's 76 legislative districts.
Most of the testimony yesterday was on the Waikiki and Manoa legislative districts, where changes to the current boundaries worried neighborhood board members as well as area lawmakers.
Manoa resident Jeremy Lam said the new plan "chopped up" Manoa by placing the Ewa side of the valley in another Senate district. George Nakano, another area resident, was puzzled by the jaggedness of the boundaries, which cuts McCully and Moiliili from the Manoa Senate district.
Sen. Brian Taniguchi (D, Manoa) urged the panel to keep as much of the current district as possible. Taniguchi said the greater the changes are there, the more removed residents will feel from government.
Still others yesterday complained about the decision to include 53,261 nonresident military dependents (the figure was revised upward from 41,430) in the population base used to equally divide the House and Senate districts.
Jim Hall, a commission advisory member and House Republican caucus researcher, reiterated the inclusion shortchanges the neighbor islands and East Honolulu. He said nonresident military dependents were never intended to be counted as permanent residents.
Steve Alan Knauer, president of the Waikiki Residents Association, said the plan smacks of gerrymandering and urged commissioners not to split up communities.
"I think honest people, honorable people don't do these kinds of things," Knauer said. Meanwhile, Minami said changes will be made to the plan once the hearings are over. Already, the panel has discovered areas inadvertently included in one district that should have been in another.
"There will be some changes, but at this point, I'm not sure how extensive it will be," Minami said.
Faith Evans and Pam Lee Smith have opposing views about the proposed new political districts for the state Legislature.
Evans, chairwoman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board, questions why the 2001 Reapportionment Commission put her middle-class, largely Republican community in the same state Senate district as Hanalei, Kauai, a small Democratic town famous for its picturesque sunsets.
"It's ridiculous," Evans said. "These are two different communities ... and I don't think either community can be served well."
But Smith, who serves on the Ewa Neighborhood Board, is elated with how the appointed bipartisan panel redrew the Ewa Plain. The commission added two new House districts and a new Senate district to account for the growth in Leeward Oahu over the past 10 years.
"I'm happy with the ways things have fallen down out here," said Smith, a Republican who lost to state Rep. Willie Espero (D, Ewa Beach) in last year's general election and is enthusiastic about running for a House seat void of an incumbent.
"What can I say? I can't criticize too much when I'm happy with what I got," she said. The commission begins the first of 11 statewide public hearings on its proposed state legislative plan on Sept. 10. Federal law requires states to redraw their congressional and legislative districts every 10 years to coincide with new population figures from the decennial census.
Led by retired banker Wayne Minami, the panel is expected to hear complaints centered around these actions it took this summer:
The addition of two multi-island or canoe districts to the six already in existence.
The inclusion of 41,430 nonresident military dependents in the base population total used to equally divide the 51 House and 26 Senate districts.
The knowledge that legislators' homes were marked so commissioners knew where they lived when they redrew the political districts. State lawmakers also got a preview of proposed redistricting plans before the general public, raising concerns about possible gerrymandering.
While commissioners brace for next month's public hearings, Hawaii's reapportionment process is actually more objective than in most other states.
Hawaii is among only 11 states, including Idaho, Montana and Washington, that allows a board or commission to reshape its congressional or legislative districts.
In 38 other states, the people most affected by the redistricting -- the state Legislature -- are the ones who literally redraw their own political boundaries.
For example, in Alabama, a 22-member panel of state lawmakers is responsible for reapportionment. Similar processes are found in California, Texas, Oregon and elsewhere.
And in Maryland, state law requires both the legislature and the governor to handle reapportionment.
Giving all that power to state lawmakers sounds like a nightmare for the community, said state Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki). "I can't imagine, but I would suspect that there'd be outcry in the community," he said.
"The point is to make sure every citizen gets equally represented. But if you get the people directly affected in a position where they can draw their own lines, I think it would be dangerous," Schatz said.
Hawaii Republicans agree. House Minority Leader Galen Fox (R, Waikiki) said Hawaii has one of the better reapportionment systems in the country, so much that its 1991 reapportionment plan was among the few not challenged in court.
"I think we're better off taking it out of the hands of the Legislature, which is just guaranteed to be political," Fox said.
Having the fox guard the henhouse has proved problematic for some states recently. In Texas, the Republican-controlled state Legislature in May blocked any legislative attempt at reapportionment after bipartisanship broke down.
Two months later, an appointed Texas Legislative Redistricting Board adopted new legislative districts, with some Texas lawmakers suggesting that may be the way to go. And in Oregon, the state Legislature's failure to pass a reapportionment bill by July 1 meant that responsibility fell to one person -- Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury. Bradbury held 21 reapportionment public hearings across the state. Promising no backroom deals or partisan bargaining, he released his final redistrict plan in mid-August and is confident it will stand up to any legal challenge.
"The law is very clear that a redistricting plan cannot be drawn to benefit any individual or political party -- and I absolutely did not consider where incumbents live as I drew this final plan," Bradbury stated at the time.
In Hawaii, Minami has said the commission was aware where incumbents lived but insisted their residences did not play a significant role in the new plan.
Lawmakers, however, admit there was a certain bias toward incumbents. The general idea was to give people a sense of familiarity with legislators by attempting to keep their representatives in roughly the same districts.
"You certainly have to watch out for drawing abnormally squiggly lines," Schatz explained.
"I think, on the other hand, you want to make sure if the people duly elected somebody then, all other things be equal, they should continue to be or at least have the opportunity to be represented by that person," he said.
Meanwhile, reapportionment advisory council members complained through the summer about the inclusion of nonresident military dependents to the population base used for redistricting. They said it unfairly increased Oahu's population and thereby kept neighbor islands from possibly gaining new House and Senate seats -- even though neighbor island growth, especially on Maui, outpaced Oahu's over the past 10 years.
They also questioned the increase in the number of multi-island districts, called canoe districts because candidates would need boats to get to different parts of the districts. The proposed districts would force Hana, Maui, and Puna, Hawaii, to share the same House and Senate districts. The plan also pairs Hanalei and Kailua in the same Senate seat, while Hanalei and Mokuleia, Oahu, would split a House seat.
Senate Minority Leader Sam Slom (R, Hawaii Kai) said canoe districts may be a necessity given Hawaii's geography and population. But, he said, it should be more compatible than a Hanalei-Kailua connection.
"People don't want an upcountry rural area put in with an urban center, where there seems to be very little in common," Slom said.
Lawmakers say significant testimony at these upcoming hearings could influence changes to the plans. Recently, it became much easier for people to focus their testimony, thanks to a new interactive mapping feature on the reapportionment Web site.
David Rosenbrock, reapportionment project manager, and Royce Jones of the Environmental Systems Research Institute, which is providing technical assistance for redistricting, explained the new interactive district mapping allows people to use their Internet browsers to review and compare proposed legislative districts.
The program allows visitors to call up any location in Hawaii and compare current and proposed districts to see what changes were made, such as where the district line was moved and the new number of that district.
It also allows users to overlay census and reapportionment population figures on these maps, giving them the same street-by-street information the commission used to redraw all 76 districts. With that data, people can draw up their own district alignments to present to the commission, resulting in more useful testimony.
Rosenbrock said the commission does have the time to make changes to the legislative plan once the hearings are done. The deadline to submit the final plan to the chief elections officer is Oct. 26, he said.
"The stuff's out there," Rosenbrock said. "We're trying our best to give the information, and we're trying to listen."
Kailua residents against sharing a proposed state Senate multi-island or "canoe" district with people in Hanalei, Kauai, can show up next month to testify against the proposed legislative redistricting plan.
The more testimony against it, the better the chances of it getting changed, suggested Jill Frierson, vice chairwoman of the 2001 Reapportionment Commission.
"The Kailua people better be there," Frierson said.
In what was the most partisan action yet by the nine-member panel, the four Republican-appointed commissioners, which include Frierson, failed yesterday to stop the progress of a new state legislative map, which now goes to statewide hearings next month.
Kailua is considered a GOP stronghold, and Kauai generally is heavily for the Democratic Party.
The new map, which redraws the state's 76 House and Senate districts, increases the number of canoe districts to eight from six.
As proposed, Hanalei would share House and Senate districts with Mokuleia, and Kailua, Oahu, respectively. Hana, Maui, and Puna, Hawaii, would split both House and Senate seats.
The remaining four canoe districts are natural connections between Niihau and Kauai, and between Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe and Western Maui.
"I believe that the use of canoe districts is unfair, unpopular, unworkable, unconsti- tutional and, worst of all, unnecessary," said Jim Hal.
He added that most reapportionment advisory council members like himself agree the past 20 years of legislative canoe districts must end.
Meanwhile, the new legislative plan also creates political opportunities for some legislators and political nightmares for others.
For example, the redrawn House district boundaries for Kalihi places current state Reps. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay (D, Moanalua-Kapalama) and Benjamin Cabreros (D, Kalihi Kai-Palama) against each other. Both men have said they have a good relationship and will not run against each other.
They will wait for the final reapportionment of Kalihi before they decide their future. Other House members, such as Republican Charles Djou (Kahului-Kaneohe) and Democrat Terry Nui Yoshinaga (McCully), also face new districts with other incumbents.
Political opportunities lie in West Oahu, where there will be two new House seats and a new Senate seat. Because there are no incumbents in these districts, current area legislators have the advantage of name recognition.
Yesterday, Republican commissioners attempted to scuttle the plan because of concerns over whether it was legal to include an estimated 41,430 nonresident military dependents in the adjusted state population base used to equally divide the legislative districts.
State Deputy Attorney General Brian Aburano told the commission its action did not clearly or necessarily violate any federal or state laws, but it does go against historical policies and precedents set for state reapportionment.
The 1991 reapportionment commission excluded military dependents. Still, Aburano warned, if the commission decided now to exclude these military dependents, it may be challenged in court.
Commission Chairman Wayne Minami said a legal challenge is inevitable anyway and will likely come from neighbor island residents, who lose out on more House seats on Maui because nearly all of the military dependents counted live on Oahu, giving it more representation.
"We're stuck between looking at it from a purely state viewpoint vs. looking at the federal requirements of one man, one vote," explained Minami, a retired bank president and former state attorney general.
Minami said the problem involved in excluding military dependents is that they do not know whether the dependents' intent is to become Hawaii residents. The information provided by the military is limited, and without any clear-cut data, the federal policy is to favor inclusiveness, he said.
"I wasn't in a position where we could automatically decide they were nonresidents because their husbands or their spouses selected a non-Hawaii state for income tax purpose," he said.
"State precedents have been overruled in federal courts in previous cases. In doing anything in this area, you have to look at the federal constitutional requirements. That's part of your job," Minami said.
The public hearings will begin sometime after Labor Day, after the commission publishes its proposed plan. There is a required 20-day waiting period before the hearings start to give the public time to digest the new district boundaries at a street-by-street level.
Hearing dates are being rescheduled, but plans call for one hearing on Kauai, Molokai and Lanai, two on Maui and Hawaii, and four on Oahu.
"Public testimony is persuasive, and we want to hear from the community," said Commissioner David Rae.
By law the commission must adopt a revised plan by Oct. 4. The final plan must be filed with the chief election officer by Oct. 26 and submitted to the state Legislature by Dec. 28.
State Reapportionment Commission Chairman Wayne Minami says a proposed legislative redistricting plan does not intend to put individual lawmakers at a political disadvantage.
Instead, he said, it is a good-faith attempt at adjusting political boundaries to jibe with the growth in population.
"Many legislators are impacted by our redistricting," Minami said. "We didn't single out anyone for punishment. We just drew the lines as the new population changes led us to."
The commission revealed yesterday its preliminary legislative plan and will vote on the proposal tomorrow.
If approved, the plan will go to statewide public hearings in September, with an eye on approval of a final reapportionment plan in October.
Jean Aoki, legislative chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, said she is concerned the commission considered the location of incumbents' homes in redrawing the district lines.
That is gerrymandering and it should not be happening, she said.
"The selection of the legislators for each district must be left entirely to the voters of each respective district," Aoki said. "Gerrymandering in carving districts must not reflect partisan or internal political purposes."
Minami said commissioners knew where the incumbents' residences were, but they remained focused on a fair apportionment that minimized changes to districts, which under the new legislative plan is more evident on Kauai and the Big Island than it is on Oahu.
"Part of keeping the same districts inevitably meant keeping the incumbent in that position as well. Yes, it's helping the incumbent, but it is also an idea of not making dramatic boundary changes," he said.
Under the plan there are four multi-island districts in the state Senate and four in the state House. These are nicknamed "canoe districts" because it would take a canoe to get from one part of a district to the other part or parts.
In the Senate there is a Hanalei, Kauai-Kailua, Oahu, canoe district as well a Hana, Maui-Puna, Hawaii district.
The other two canoe districts are natural connections between Niihau and Kauai, and between Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and western Maui.
In the House there is a proposed Hanalei, Kauai-Mokuleia, Oahu, district, as well as a Hana, Maui-Puna, Hawaii, district. Two other natural canoe districts exist as well.
On Oahu, House district lines were expanded west from East Honolulu, which lost two House seats to West Oahu. Similarly, Ewa Beach also gained its own Senate seat after it was split off from Makakilo-Kapolei.
Elsewhere, Maui state Rep. Chris Halford (R, Makena-Kihei) said the redistricting puts him out of Upcountry Maui and actually consolidates the South Maui House district.
"The South Maui people survive this drawing very well," he said.
Common Cause Hawaii filed a complaint with the state yesterday after the 2001 Reapportionment Commission presented a closed-door briefing to lawmakers on a proposed plan to reshape the state's 76 legislative districts.
"Taxpayers paid for this process, and we should get the information as everyone else," said Common Cause Hawaii spokesman Larry Meacham, who filed the complaint with the state Office of Information Practices.
Since the redistricting plan was given to legislators, there is no reason to withhold it from the public, Meacham said. The information is urgently needed since the commission plans to release the plan on Tuesday and vote on it Thursday, he said.
"There's no reason why the public should wait a week after the legislators," Meacham added.
Commission Chairman Wayne Minami confirmed that lawmakers were briefed about the reapportionment process on Wednesday but were not shown any detailed plan. Instead, legislators were briefed on the entire reapportionment process -- information made available to those who asked, he said.
But lawmakers from both the majority and minority caucuses told the Star-Bulletin yesterday they were shown an actual redistricting plan that drastically reshapes the 76 districts.
For instance, the plan would combine Kalihi's two House seats into one, forcing state Reps. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay (Fort Shafter-Kapalama) and Benjamin Cabreros (Palama-Kalihi Kai) into a primary election next year.
Both men, who were initially appointed to their House seats before being elected to them, said yesterday they have a good relationship and will not run against each other. They will wait for the final reapportionment of Kalihi before they decide their future.
"We'll leave our options open," Abinsay said.
Meanwhile, the commission by a vote of 7-1 adopted the "traditional" reapportionment plan for the congressional districts.
The plan basically moves Waipahu to Neil Abercrombie's House District 1, which is urban Honolulu, from Patsy Mink's House District 2, which covers the rest of Oahu and the neighbor islands.
Mink did not want to lose Waipahu, which is considered a safe Democratic area. She had proposed her own redistricting plan, but it drew little support.
Commissioner Harold Masumoto voted against the traditional plan yesterday.
Masumoto favored his north-south plan, which puts Kauai and most of Oahu into one district, and the rest of Oahu and Maui and Hawaii counties in the other. Other commissioners, however, said those on the neighbor islands felt they would get better representation in Congress under one U.S. representative.
No matter how the 2001 Reapportionment Commission redraws the state's political districts, members say some neighborhoods will be split up.
"Some community is going to be split," said Harold Masumoto. "I don't think you can avoid that."
The commission is already feeling the pressure of a self-imposed Aug. 2 deadline to complete redistricting plans for Hawaii's two congressional districts, 76 state legislative districts and for staggered terms in the state Senate's 25 seats.
Yesterday, members of mandated advisory councils to the panel urged commissioners to rethink the decision to include aliens and nonresident military dependents in the adjusted population base being used to equally redraw the boundaries.
They say the exclusion of these two groups, which they estimate amount to 121,000 people, would give each neighbor island county an additional full House member, as well as avoid the need for a canoe district on Kauai.
Jim Hall, an advisory council member who served on a past decennial reapportionment commission, added that nonresident military dependents and aliens are not Hawaii citizens and should not be counted in the state's reapportionment. To include them when previous reapportionment panels have not will affect the next five elections, he warned.
But commission Chairman Wayne Minami said the uncertainty of whether nonresident military dependents consider themselves Hawaii residents prompted the panel to include them as a precaution in the population base. Also, both groups are residents in the sense that they pay general excise taxes and send their children to Hawaii schools, he said.
The panel also revealed three plans yesterday to redraw Hawaii's congressional districts to account for the growth in the rural 2nd District held by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.
The first "traditional" proposal keeps most of the districts intact except Waipahu, now in Mink's district. It would fold into the 1st District, represented by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie.
The second "north-south" plan divides the islands along the southeastern end of Oahu. It puts Kauai, Niihau and most of Oahu in District 2, and the rest of the state in District 1.
Masumoto, who came up with the north-south idea, explained he wanted the state to move away from the demographic designations of urban and rural because those classifications are not applicable anymore.
The final plan shown yesterday was submitted by Mink's office on Wednesday. It expands Abercrombie's district to Barbers Point but keeps Waipahu within Mink's district. The proposal, however, has uneven and forced boundaries, something reapportionment planners said early on they wanted to avoid.
Minami said the panel will accept redistricting plans from the public, but the time to do so is short.
The commission is expected to vote on a congressional redistricting plan next week, and on a state legislative plan on Aug. 2. The date was moved up a week to give the panel time to fix any major problems with the proposals. Once preliminary plans are approved, they will be published and go to public hearings in September.
Minami said he hopes the commission will take a final vote on reapportionment Oct. 4.
The boundaries of Hawaii's two U.S. House districts would be radically altered under a plan that would align Kauai and most of Oahu in one congressional district, while the rest of the island chain would make up the other.
Currently, Hawaii's 1st Congressional District encompasses urban Honolulu. The 2nd District covers the rest of Oahu and all the neighbor islands.
"Basically, it's a change. And all change is uncomfortable," said David Rosenbrock, reapportionment project manager.
The redistricting proposal, one of two that redraws the state's U.S. House seats, would split Oahu at its southeast end.
The proposed dividing line between the districts would run along Bishop Street, up Nuuanu Avenue and the Pali Highway and, on the Windward side of the Koolau Mountains, would run somewhere between Kaneohe and Kailua.
Everything north of the line would be in the 2nd District, the seat now held by Democrat Patsy Mink. Everything south of it would be the 1st District, which is fellow Democrat Neil Abercrombie's territory.
Both Abercrombie and Mink could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The 2001 Reapportionment Commission will be asked at its meeting tomorrow to review this plan, as well as a more traditional redistricting plan.
The other proposal basically moves much of Waipahu from Mink's rural district to Abercrombie's urban district to account for the 6 percent growth this past decade in Central and Leeward Oahu.
Commissioners will likely choose from among the two plans next week.
By law, Hawaii's congressional districts must be equally reapportioned according to the latest census numbers. The goal is to place 605,756 people in each district based on census data, Rosenbrock said.
Some political observers say the north-south plan would make it harder for Republicans to win Mink's district because of Kauai's Democratic stronghold. But it gives Republicans a stronger chance at Abercrombie's seat in the south.
North-south congressional boundaries were proposed in past reapportionment commissions in 1981 and 1991 but were disregarded.
The commission is working under an Aug. 2 deadline to complete draft congressional and state legislative redistricting plans, as well as staggered terms for the state Senate. It is expected to publish these preliminary plans in mid-August, with statewide public hearings set for September.
The commission hopes to adopt a revised plan by early October.