Posted tagged ‘Reapportionment’

O‘ahu, Big Isle wrestle for Senate seat

June 14, 2011

One of the biggest hot potatoes facing the state Reapportionment Commission is whether to count some 70,000 nonresident military personnel and dependents who can’t vote in setting legislative district lines.

Hawai‘i is currently one of only two states that don’t count them, along with Kansas, and the commission is taking another look at the issue.

The ramifications are significant: If nonresident military continue not to be counted, O‘ahu will likely lose a state Senate seat to the fast-growing Big Island, which would go from three senators to four.

But if the commission changes policy and counts military who can’t vote, the seat would likely be saved for O‘ahu, where most of them are based.

Counting the nonresident military could also give the state’s moribund Republican Party a slight boost by creating more districts around military bases, where voters tend to be a little more to the right.

Veterans groups are pressuring the panel to show the troops the respect of counting them even though they can’t vote here, as the federal government requires in setting congressional districts.

Some on O‘ahu are rallying around the idea as a way keeping the Senate seat on the island, but Big Islanders naturally take umbrage at a rules change that would deny them the additional Senate seat they feel they’re entitled to by an honest count of eligible resident voters.

Counting those who can’t vote, they say, leaves us with a skewed Legislature that doesn’t truly represent the electorate.

As one of my old friends in Hilo colorfully put it, “I do not know if I am
to grab my ankles now or a little later.”

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