It’s time to redraw political boundaries, and the state is arguing about whether to use red or blue ink.
The Hawaii Supreme Court will need to play referee after four Democrats and four Republicans assigned to the Reapportionment Commission by lawmakers were unable to agree on a ninth member to become chair before a deadline last week.
The eight members were appointed by majority and minority leadership in both the Hawaii House and Hawaii Senate and certified on March 15, according to the Office of Elections.
The board met on April 11 but was unable to come to an agreement. That was its last chance. If no pick is made within 30 days of certification, the job is turned over to the court.
Three of the five Supreme Court justices — Paula Nakayama, Simeon Acoba and Sabrina McKenna — were appointed by Democratic governors. The other two — Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald and James Duffy — were appointed by Republican Gov. Linda Lingle.
UPDATE “The Supreme Court has not yet received any formal communication from the commission so it would be premature to comment at this time,” judiciary spokesman Mark Santoki told Civil Beat in an email.1
The commission’s work is critical because by redrawing the boundaries of state Senate and House districts and the state’s two U.S. House districts, it can affect the fortunes of politicians and the success of the parties.
The Republican and Democratic members on the commission have rejected each other’s recommendations, according to a source granted anonymity by Civil Beat because the person is familiar with the deliberations and wouldn’t speak about the topic otherwise.
Republicans have suggested former Adjutant General Robert Lee, retired Hilo businessman Harvey Tajiri, former Big Island politician Virginia Isbell and Honolulu attorney Christian Adams.
Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun, who has been providing legal advice to commissioners, confirmed Monday that the body’s chance to pick its chair is now over as it’s been more than 30 days since the eight members were certified. The Supreme Court will indeed need to step in and make the pick, a process described by Article IV of the Hawaii Constitution.
Chun said she was not aware of any announcement from the court as of yet.
The real work won’t begin until the announcement is made. The commission has 150 days to complete the once-per-decade district-drawing task that comes on the heels of an official population count from the decennial U.S. Census.
That clock won’t start until the court makes the pick and the commission is fully constituted, Chun said.
The commission is set to meet Thursday morning and has posted an agenda [pdf]. Among the items up for discussion are the chair and other commission deadlines.
Read our previous coverage of reapportionment in Hawaii: