The controversy over whether or not to count military personnel when redrawing Hawaii’s political boundaries seemed moot Wednesday because the state can’t accurately separate them from the general population.

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission previously voted 8-1 in June to include non-resident military personnel as well as sentenced felons and college students — the basic Census population — as part of political district populations. Those groups were not included in the 2001 count that determined current House and Senate districts.

Amid threats of legal challenges to that decision, chairwoman Victoria Marks had recommended the panel draw up various scenarios to be safe.

But reapportionment staff told commission members Wednesday that they can’t accurately extract military residents who were counted in the latest U.S. Census based on where they live. That’s because the Department of Defense has only provided ZIP codes for active-duty military who don’t declare Hawaii as their permanent residence.

That ZIP code data doesn’t jibe with the more-detailed Census data used for redistricting, which uses Census blocks.

For example, reapportionment staff compared military population data versus Census data for the three largest bases on Oahu.

  • Kaneohe Marine Corps Base: the Department of Defense says there is a total of 7,646 military residents, including dependents, living in the 96863 ZIP code. The U.S. Census data shows a total population of 52 for that ZIP.

  • Schofield Barracks: the military says there are 18,012 military residents living in the 96857 ZIP code. Census says: 2,522 total population for that ZIP.

  • Pearl Harbor: the military says there are 3,536 military residents living in the 96860 ZIP code. Census says: 1,124 total population.

In all three cases, the military-provided population counts are much larger than the Census population reported, making it impossible to extract non-resident military from the area.

Marks told Civil Beat that the commission will still try to get more accurate data from the military.

“We’ll continue to try to get information from the military so that we have reliable data,” she said. “We’re still in the process of speaking with the military and we’ll see where that goes.”

Commissioner Terry Thomason said the latest data creates a “terrible dilemma.”

“Who do we include as the resident population for state redistricting?” Thomason said. “We don’t have an accurate way to break out the residences of these people determined to be non-residents. That creates a terrible dilemma … If there is ultimately a way to identify where non-resident military actually live with some measure of accuracy, I will change my vote,” he said, referring to the commission’s decision to count military.

The commission has a similar conflict for trying to extract non-resident college students. The University of Hawaii provided only ZIP codes for its more than 10,000 non-resident students. Chaminade University did not provide any data. Hawaii Pacific University and Bringham Young University, however, did provide exact addresses for its mainland and international students living in Hawaii.

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