Dr. Mark Mugiishi, president and CEO of the Hawaii Medical Services Association, was elected Tuesday to lead a state panel charged with redrawing Hawaii’s political boundaries once every decade.

It was the first order of business for the Reapportionment Commission, a panel tasked with drawing district boundaries for state representatives and senators. Six members of the eight-member commission voted in favor of Mugiishi’s nomination.

“He’s a proven entity that knows how to run a big organization and navigate difficult situations,” said Dylan Nonaka, a commission member and realtor who nominated Mugiishi.

House Committee on COVID19. Dr Mark Mugiishi, President and CEO of HMSA during House committee meeting on COVID-19. July 13, 2020
Dr. Mark Mugiishi, president and CEO of HMSA, will lead a state panel in charge of redrawing political boundaries. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The panel also considered retired First Circuit Court Judge Ed Kubo for the position, but his nomination was declined. Robin Kennedy, a commissioner and vice president with Hagadone Media Group, raised concerns over how the nomination process moved forward Tuesday. 

Kennedy wanted to consider more names, but the other commissioners voted down her proposal.

“I can’t imagine that was a legal way to do that, only because, again, we don’t have the opportunity to nominate anybody else,” Kennedy said shortly after six of the eight members voted for Mugiishi. “We just nominate one person, and then we vote, and they win and other people don’t get consideration.”

The commission will also need to contend with key census data arriving later than usual.

In normal years, the Census Bureau releases its redistricting data in the spring, and Hawaii typically has plans ready in the fall. But due to delays from the coronavirus pandemic, the bureau says it won’t have that data available until late September.

The commission took up the issue in a closed-door session of its meeting. There was little discussion about what the commission needs to do moving forward once the commissioners came back out to the public.

Hawaii Chief Elections Officer Scott Nago said the next step for the commission would be to set up committees that could work on rules for the commission, hire staff and work on drawing new political maps for Hawaii.

Hawaii lawmakers were considering changes to the state reapportionment law to clarify who counts as a permanent resident and require public disclosure of reapportionment plans, but that bill was changed Tuesday to instead defer pay raises for government officials.

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