BY MIRIAM LANDRU – Democrats battled Democrats at Tuesday’s Hawaii Reapportionment Commission meeting at the state capitol.
The fight was over the almost unanimous decision (8-1) made two weeks ago by the 9-member State Reapportionment Commission to include military and their dependents, students and felons in the state total population count.
Before the change, Hawaii and Kansas were the only states to exclude military in their population count for reapportionment purposes but Hawaii’s policy was more restrictive.
The decision is important because if 20,094 are extracted from Oahu a senate seat will move to Hawaii Island. The military plus their dependents are over 70,000.
“There was a full court press by Big Island Democrats State Senator Malama Solomon Rep. Cindy Evans and Bob Herkes, along with other Democrats for a reversed vote. They want the Commission to re-vote. Lawsuits have been threatened. Interestingly, 3 of the 4 Commission Democrats support the change. There may be two plans submitted,” said Sen. Sam Slom, R-Hawaii Kai-Diamond Head, who has attended all of the commission hearings.
Retired Judge Victoria Marks is overseeing the commission, which is charged with redrawing the congressional district lines for the next decade based on the U.S. Census population count.
The military and their dependents largely live on Oahu on Schofield Barracks, Hickam Air Force Base and Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Base. Military families also are dispersed throughout the island of Oahu in communities.
Big Island lawmakers who testified argued that since the military was a transient population, it should not be counted.
State Rep. Cindy Evans acknowledged “there are some 4,000 marines who come to train at Pohakuloa Training Area every few months, and students at the college… but I don’t consider them permanent residents.”
However other residents of Hawaii disagree, “There is a permanent military presence on this island (Oahu) of about 70,000 people with dependents. They’re here all the time. They’re subject to our laws, they drive on our roads, they go to our schools and they pay our taxes. They are entitled to representation in our legislature,” asserted Mike Palcic, chairperson of the Oahu Reapportionment Advisory Committee.