On Monday, Civil Beat published its rundown of the 2011 redistricting process. Tuesday, one of the Big Island daily newspapers picked up the ball and ran with it, printing a story about Hawaii County’s prospects for 2011 reapportionment.

The headline of West Hawaii Today’s story — New lines will be drawn, but likely no additional House seats — is supported by a quote from University of Hawaii at Hilo political science professor emeritus Rick Castberg, who says, “The population base would have to grow disproportionately to the rest of the state, and I don’t think that’s happened.”

Actually, the Big Island’s population base has grown disproportionately to the rest of the state, increasing 19.6 percent from the 2000 Census to July 2009 estimates versus increases of 13.3 percent for Maui, 10.3 percent for Kauai and 3.6 for Honolulu in the same time period. The state’s population as a whole increased about 7 percent.

But there’s another factor at play: Hawaii County was already overrepresented in the 2001 reapportionment, and is just now reaching the point where its seven House seats are justified by its population.

The Reapportionment Commission, which will determine how many state House and Senate districts each county gets next year, created “targets” designed to ensure all districts contained comparable populations in the initial proposal [pdf] in 2001.

Basically, the state’s total population was divided by 51 to come up with a target for House districts, and divided by 25 to come up with a target for Senate districts. Article III of the Hawaii Constitution sets the number of districts in each chamber.

House Reapportionment Targets — 2001

County Population Target Target Districts Actual Districts
Honolulu 876,156 23,753 36.89 35
Hawaii 148,677 23,753 6.26 7
Maui 128,094 23,753 5.39 6
Kauai 58,463 23,753 2.46 3
Total 1,211,390 23,753 51 51

House Reapportionment Targets — 2009

County Population Target Target Districts Actual Districts
Honolulu 907,574 25,394 35.74 ?
Hawaii 177,835 25,394 7.00 ?
Maui 145,157 25,394 5.72 ?
Kauai 64,529 25,394 2.54 ?
Total 1,295,095 25,394 51 51

Source: Civil Beat analysis of Census data

In the past nine years, Honolulu’s share of the state’s population has dipped enough that it deserves to lose a House seat — actually, 1.15 seats — but it was already underrepresented by nearly two full seats. The Big Island deserves to gain almost one House seat, but has already been overrepresented for the last decade, so might not get a new one.

Maui and Kauai Counties also gained share since 2000, but still have not reached the point where their populations justify their representation in the House.

Of course, it’s tough to break seats into portions. The commission’s original recommendations for 2001 included a split Senate district between North Kauai and Waimanalo on Oahu and split House districts involving all four counties — a practice known as “canoeing.” Such systems have been used in Hawaii before.

The commission eventually abandoned that approach even though it increased the deviation between underrepresented and overrepresented counties.

Here are the Senate targets from 2001 and 2009.

Senate Reapportionment Targets — 2001

County Population Target Target Districts Actual Districts
Honolulu 876,156 48,456 18.08 18
Hawaii 148,677 48,456 3.07 3
Maui 128,094 48,456 2.64 3
Kauai 58,463 48,456 1.21 1
Total 1,211,390 48,456 25 25

Senate Reapportionment Targets — 2009

County Population Target Target Districts Actual Districts
Honolulu 907,574 51,804 17.52 ?
Hawaii 177,835 51,804 3.43 ?
Maui 145,157 51,804 2.80 ?
Kauai 64,529 51,804 1.25 ?
Total 1,295,095 51,804 25 25

Source: Civil Beat analysis of Census data

There are many steps, and nearly a year, between now and the final decision. Only time will tell how the House and Senate districts shake out.

About the Author