The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission appears to have listened to public comment at recent community hearings and tweaked political boundaries — again.
New maps released Monday would reunite Newtown with Pearl City. And Makakilo would not be part of the North Shore, among other changes. Those were major issues at the public hearings last week.
If all goes as planned, legislative candidates could start to pull nomination papers as early as Friday, according to the state Office of Elections. The process has been on hold since the redistricting plans submitted in September were challenged in court and ultimately invalidated by the Hawaii Supreme Court in January for including too many non-permanent residents in the population base.
The commission had come up with new districts that do not include more than 100,000 military personnel, their dependents and out-of-state university students as part of political district populations. The change shifts a Senate seat from Oahu to the Big Island. Those maps went out for public comment last week on the Big Island and Oahu.
The latest plans reflect changes to four Oahu House districts based on feedback from residents who claimed the proposed boundaries would break up communities, including the North Shore. All other House and Senate seats are unchanged from the commission’s Feb. 15 plans.
Members of the commission spent about 20 hours on the changes, according to project manager David Rosenbrock. The four areas on Oahu that have been revised are:
Newtown in Pearl City
Ocean Pointe/Hoakalei in Ewa
Makakilo in West Oahu and Haleiwa/Waialua on the North Shore
Maunawili in Windward Oahu
The plans would still pit two incumbent Oahu state senators and five sets of incumbent Oahu House members against one another for re-election.
The commission is set to vote on the latest maps Wednesday afternoon. If approved, the plans would head to Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago and the Hawaii Supreme Court. With the seats determined, legislative candidates are expected to be able to pull nomination papers starting Friday. The filing period began Feb. 1 and runs to June 5.
Reapportionment staff also will be able to figure out staggered terms for Senate seats once the plans are approved.
Hawaii senators typically are elected to four-year terms, so approximately half have to run for re-election every two years. But because of reapportionment, all lawmakers are running for re-election this year. The Hawaii Constitution lays out the rules for staggering the terms, requiring that two-year terms be assigned to 12 seats for the election immediately following the adoption of the reapportionment plan.
Asked if Wednesday’s meeting would be the commission’s last, Chairwoman Victoria Marks was uncertain.
“We can cross our fingers, (but) we’ll have to wait and see. It’s possible,” she said. “Everybody and their brother seems to have voiced a disagreement with this, that or the other thing. Whether that disagreement means we face a legal challenge remains to be seen.”
She said the plans could again be challenged in court for disenfranchising voters who have been removed from the base population.
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