BY MICHAEL PALCIC – Hawaii’s military, student and incarcerated populations will be included in apportioning local legislative districts, an 8-1 vote of the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission has affirmed. The Commission has thus formally upheld residence rules of the U. S. Census Bureau.
The concept of “usual residence,” guiding census counts since the founding of the nation, states, “Usual residence is defined as the place where a person lives and sleeps most of the time. This place is not necessarily the same as the person’s voting residence or legal residence.”
Those objecting to this concept constantly refer to “nonresident” populations. They hope that by defining groups in this prejudicial way they might escape having to prove their assertion.
They argue that certain groups are not “permanent residents,” but, when pressed, fail to define what is meant by this term.
The census is a snapshot of our population at a specific point in time. There are comprehensive rules that determine who gets counted. If one reviews the rules, available at <www.census.gov>, the thoroughness and inherent fairness of these rules becomes apparent. This snapshot is in constant flux following the changes in people’s lives. A new census snapshot will be taken in 10 years to measure those changes and to reapportion legislative representation accordingly.
No one can deny the continuing presence of military, student and incarcerated populations residing in Hawaii. These persons are subject to Hawaii’s laws and deserve representation in its legislature and councils. They deserve to be counted for the apportionment of Hawaii’s legislative districts. Nothing is being “taken away” from anyone else, on Oahu or on the Neighbor Islands, by granting equal treatment to all whose usual residence is located in Hawaii. Forty-eight other states adhere to this principle.
Because the census is a snapshot, a wide variety of living situations must be dealt with. A few examples:
• A person who dies on census day is counted.
• A baby born on census day is counted.
• Persons vacationing or on a business trip are counted at their
• Citizens of foreign countries living in the U.S. are counted.
• People in mental (psychiatric) hospitals are counted.
• Totally homeless persons are counted where they are physically present on census day.
The rules are extensive, but fair, and Hawaii’s Reapportionment Commission deserves credit for making the correct decision of inclusion and of maintaining consistency with census rules.