Hawaii won’t gain or lose its representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, but much work must still be done locally to determine how political lines for the Legislature will be drawn.
Just over 1.4 million people live in the Aloha State — a 7% increase from 2010 — according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which on Monday released population figures from the 2020 census used to determine the number of seats each state gets in the House.
The population increase is not enough to change the number of House seats for Hawaii, which has two. But Texas will gain two seats while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon will gain one each.
Meanwhile, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will each lose one seat in the House.
Between 2010 and 2020, Hawaii’s population grew about 7% compared to an average population growth across all states of 7.4%. Hawaii’s population was just over 1.3 million after the 2010 census.
The total U.S. population, according to the bureau, totaled over 331 million.
“Despite many challenges, our nation completed a census for the 24th time. This act is fundamental to our democracy and a declaration of our growth and resilience,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said in a press release.
While the count nationally has gone relatively smoothly in spite of disruptions due to COVID-19, there is still a question of what Hawaii’s modest population growth will mean for island representation in the Legislature.
Every year after the census is completed, a nine-member panel called the Reapportionment Commission meets to redraw district boundaries for Hawaii’s state senators and representatives. Last time Hawaii went through the redistricting process a decade ago, Oahu lost a Senate seat while the Big Island gained one.
In normal reapportionment years the commission would already have the data it needs from the federal government to begin redrawing Hawaii’s political boundaries. However, the bureau doesn’t expect to release redistricting data until Aug. 16, with more detailed datasets coming out on Sept. 30.
On April 16, the bipartisan commission met for the first time this year and elected Dr. Mark Mugiishi, president and CEO of the Hawaii Medical Services Association, as chair.
In a written response to Civil Beat on Monday, Mugiishi said the commission has started on early administrative work including putting together a committee to hire project management and support staff.
“Once the census data is received, the planning process can begin,” Mugiishi said.
Under state law, the commission has 150 days from its first meeting on April 13 to finalize reapportionment plans. But because of delays in the release of federal data, the commission is likely to miss that deadline.
State senators have asked the state Attorney General’s Office to petition the Hawaii Supreme Court in an effort to prevent legal action against the commission for missing deadlines set in the law.
“This resolution would mitigate any unnecessary delays that could further hold up the 2021 Reapportionment Plan and our implementation and conduct of the 2022 Elections,” the office said in written testimony to lawmakers.
State lawmakers have also proposed some changes to the reapportionment process.
Senate Bill 1350, which is set for a final vote at the Legislature on Tuesday, would give the commission $287,000 to hire staff and fund the commission’s activities. The measure would also require the commission to tell the public where it can access drafts of the state reapportionment plan online.
SB 1350 also delays the availability of 2022 candidate nomination papers from February to March to account for delays in the reapportionment process.
As well, the measure outlines who can be counted toward legislative reapportionment.
Non-permanent residents need to be extracted from the data received from the Census Bureau, the bill states.
The language in the bill is consistent with a 2012 Hawaii Supreme Court decision that invalidated a previous reapportionment plan for including certain nonresident military and dependents as well as nonresident students in its plans.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell