Gov. Neil Abercrombie says the new political districts drawn by the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission shouldn’t include military and out-of-state college students.

He says the proposed boundaries should be corrected using a “permanent resident” population base.

The governor and the commission were sued in October by Big Island Democrats who argue that counting non-permanent residents is unconstitutional and has cost the Big Island an additional Senate seat it would otherwise gain due to population growth.

“The governor respectfully requests that this court compel the 2011 Reapportionment Commission to do everything necessary, including recreating ‘permanent resident’ population bases for the four basic island units, to correct the 2011 Reapportionment Plan it filed with the Chief Elections Officer,” state Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina wrote in a response to the Supreme Court case.

The suit was filed on behalf of Big Island Sen. Malama Solomon and three other Democrats. Abercrombie, the Office of Elections, Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and the Reapportionment Commission’s nine members, are named as respondents.

The commission had voted back in June to use the basic Census population for determining political district populations. Those non-permanent resident groups were not included in the 2001 count that determined current House and Senate districts.

The commission’s own counsel, Deputy Attorney General Robyn Chun, doesn’t agree with the governor. In her response to the court, she defended the commission’s work, saying: “Insofar as the commission complied with Article IV, Section 4 of the Hawaii Constitution in apportioning the members of the Legislature among the four basic island units, the petition fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.”

Civil Beat has requested the meeting minutes of all executive sessions entered into by the commission to try to better understand how the commission came to its decisions. Chun denied the request.

Read more at The Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

For a good explanation of the issues in this story, read this earlier Civil Beat article on the challenges of defining who’s local.

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