A state lawyer says a court would likely overturn a decision to include military and students in the population as the state redraws political lines.

“(I)t appears that the Hawaii Supreme Court would likely hold that to the extent they are identifiable, nonresident college students and non-resident military members and their families cannot properly be included in the reapportionment population base the (Reapportionment) Commission uses to draw the legislative district lines this year,” Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina wrote in a letter obtained by Civil Beat.

The opinion, provided to to Big Island Rep. Bob Herkes after he asked for legal advice, was also signed by Hawaii Attorney General David Louie. It was sent Tuesday and was received by Herkes as the Reapportionment Commission met just down the hall on the 3rd floor of the Hawaii Capitol.

The commission has been receiving advice from a different deputy attorney general, Robyn Chun. Neither Chun nor Commission Chair Victoria Marks have revealed what’s been discussed in executive sessions, like the one convened Tuesday to discuss the population base. They’ve also declined to share with Civil Beat any written advice Chun has provided to the commission.

It’s possible that Chun has been saying privately all along what her fellow attorney told Herkes Tuesday, and that the commission has ignored her legal advice that they are proceeding with a population base likely to be overturned on appeal. It’s also possible that two different deputy attorney generals could reach different conclusions on this complicated legal and cultural question.

At its last meeting, the panel hedged on its decision a bit, saying it would draw up plans for different population base scenarios in anticipation of a potential lawsuit.

At the end of the commission’s meeting Tuesday, Marks acknowledged she’d received a copy of the letter from Herkes and that the commission would be reviewing it. The commission is scheduled to meet next on Aug. 4. Later in August and in early September, the commission will take its redistricting plans around the state for public input.

Read the attorney general’s opinion:

About the Author