A powerful commission tasked with redrawing political boundaries for Hawaii’s state and congressional districts appears to be heading for more secrecy than in previous years, with the formation of authorized private interaction groups instead of public hearings committees.
Establishing draft rules to do most of its work behind closed doors took most of a one-hour Redistribution Commission meeting on Tuesday, with a substantial part of the meeting held in session. executive as the commission sought advice from its lawyer on whether the government to set up authorized interaction groups followed Sunshine Law.
Sandy Ma, executive director of Common Cause Hawaii, has called for authorized interaction groups to be canceled and redone to meet the requirements of the Sunshine Law.
“We want to make sure that the public is fully involved in the process as there were concerns during the last redistribution that the public was not fully involved,” Ma said. “We want to make sure that transparency is respected. and that the public can fully participate. “
Becky Gardner, a former staff member of a Big Island lawmaker, echoed Ma’s concerns.
“I ask this commission to err on the side of transparency and accountability,” she said. “The more open this process is and beyond the Sunshine Law, … (we will have) more people engaged and we will not have challenges like we did in 2011.”
The committee came out of its closed-door session with Chairman Mark Mugiishi saying that forming groups to develop procedures and prepare proposed reallocation plans was legal, but the committee will vote on them at the next meeting to comply with Sunshine Law.
“All the commissioners are convinced that the procedure was legal and appropriate,” Mugiishi said.
The Island of Hawaii’s only representative on the commission, Dylan Nonaka, a real estate broker from Kailua-Kona, said the commission plans to offer the public the ability to create their own maps once the numbers are down and the software in place. Draft maps will be brought to each island for public hearings, he said.
The nine-member commission is formed every 10 years to redraw the districts for the two state congressional seats, 25 state senate seats and 51 state chamber seats based on the decennial census . Its work is important because it determines the number of House and Senate districts on each island, as well as the regions they will represent.
This is especially important for the island of Hawaii, the fastest growing island in the state and which could be heading towards its eighth member of the House.
The purpose of redistribution is to ensure equal representation for all residents. The aim is to draw legislative constituencies with as many people as possible.
The state had 1,455,271 residents, up 94,970 from the 2010 census, according to state-level data released in May by the Census Bureau. More specific demographics have yet to be released, but annual estimates indicate Oahu is losing population while neighboring islands are gaining more.
The Supreme Court presumed that a plan is unconstitutional if the districts are 10% larger or smaller than the ideal population, which is obtained by dividing the total population by the number of districts.
This means that the ideal population for each of the state’s 51 districts would be around 28,535, or 25,681 to 31,388 to stay within the 10% gap. The ideal population for the 25 States Senate districts would be 56,635 or between 50,971 and 62,298 to stay within the 10% gap.
This is a daunting task for the Redistribution Commission, which also tries to avoid so-called “canoe districts,” where a state legislator represents parts of two or more islands. This has proven unsatisfactory for both lawmakers and residents, who feel their representation is diluted compared to having a state lawmaker representing a single island, opponents of canoe districts say.
Email Nancy Cook Lauer at [email protected]