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Same as it ever was: Reapportionment Commission holds fast to 2011 allocation of state legislative seats

There will be no canoe districts and all basic island units will keep the same number of state senators and state representatives they have now, the Reapportionment Commission agreed in unanimous votes Thursday.

The commission also agreed to accept what some critics saw as an under-count of non-permanent military and student populations, a count that gave Oahu a slight edge in population over what it would have had if as many military personnel were extracted as had been after a lawsuit in 2011.

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The discussion about whether Oahu would lose a House seat to the Big Island had been ongoing since reapportionment after the 2010 census resulted in Oahu losing a Senate seat following changes in population and a successful lawsuit by Big Island residents led by Malama Solomon to remove nonresident military families and students from the counts.

Testifiers questioned the drop in the number of nonresident military identified by staff and extracted from the population, compared to what was extracted after the Solomon lawsuit. The number of nonresident military families removed from the census, mostly from Oahu, is about a third less than it was during the last reapportionment process and the number of nonresident students as of April 1 has also declined.

“I do not believe you can, in good faith, vote for an extraction that does not comport with reality. Nor comply with the Solomon ruling,” said Honolulu resident Bart Dame, testifying to the commission.

But commissioners said staff explanations of the decrease satisfied their questions and they were confident they were following the law by using the same methodology that was used 10 years ago.

“I believe the process we’re following is consistent with the final plan that was adopted and upheld and uses the best information available,” said Commissioner Calvert Chipchase, who was also on the 2011 commission.

Commissioner Dylan Nonaka agreed.

“Philosophically I’m opposed to removing anybody from the census count. If they’re counted here and they live here. they have an impact on our community and our districts and the resources that the state and the county need to put out in order to support that population,” Nonaka said. “This is an unnecessary step. … That being said, there is a Supreme Court decision and law we have to follow.”

The next step is to draw the boundary lines for the 25 Senate and 51 House seats, a project the technical committee of the commission is working on in thrice-weekly closed-door meetings.

Once the group settles on maps, they will be presented to the commission, which must hold them over at least one meeting to allow public input on them.

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The public can also create its own maps an submit them to the technical committee for consideration by creating an account at https://redistricting.hawaii.esriemcs.com/redistricting/index.html .

“We share them with the technical committee so they can decide if they’re good or not,” reapportionment staffer David Rosenbrock said of maps submitted by the public.

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