Learning to Count in Hawaii

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Hawaii’s reapportionment commission

KAY GHEAN – The trades were gentle but sufficient to bring cool breezes to a sunny and otherwise uncomfortable day. Across the street I recognized my Army friend, Lt. Smart and his daughter, Alice.

“Hey Al!” I shouted. He responded with a big wave and we quickly closed the distance between us. Sitting on nearby benches we exchanged news of our families, our jobs and Alice’s classes.. Happy that all reports were positive, I was eager to tell him of the horribly unfair reapportionment and my efforts to correct it. I explained that this effort was consuming my full attention. (He is very smart and I was eager for his approval and support.)


“Have you heard about the fight to change the reapportionment count?” I asked.

“Yeah”, he replied, “…it makes no sense to me.”

Excitedly, I explained, that because Hawaii didn’t count him and his family as “residents” he was being cheated out of he representative at the State Legislature

“What do you mean “representation?” he asked.

“You know, a “representative” to be your voice on laws in Hawaii. What they did is unfair. It is so wrong that were taking it to court. If we win, they will have to include you and Alice as residents and you’ll have the representation that is due you.”

His face was questioning. “But I’m not a resident of Hawaii. My home is Dallas and that’s where I vote and pay taxes.”

“But you don’t understand!”‘ I insisted. “They’re cheating you! ”

“No. I do understand. My domicile is Dallas. That is home and that is where I am ‘represented.’ I’m temporarily stationed in Hawaii and, frankly, have little concern about the legislation that passes here. At some point I’ll get new orders and leave Hawaii.”

“How could my old friend be so obtuse?” I fumed. “Why didn’t he understand this is unfair?”

“Listen, Al, take my word for it, this is unfair to you and the other military stationed here. You have to speak out.” I rushed on. “You owe it to the people spending their time and money to fight for this for you!”

He thought for a moment. “If you count people like me, non residents, does that change representation for people who really live here…as residents?”

I paused, for in fact, Big Island had gained a state Senator on the last count.

“Look,” he said, “this makes no sense. I’m represented in Dallas and you want to take away representation from neighbor island residents,” he said, warming to the topic. “Is this really about keeping power in Oahu?  Between my ‘rep’ in Dallas and the military, I feel fully represented.  I don’t see any problem.”

He continued, “If I thought it important, I would change my domicile and register to vote here. Then I’d be counted, right?”

Now he’d done it!  I was angry. What right did he have to say that? After all, I know what’s best for him and whether he wants it or not, he’s going to be represented in Hawaii and Dallas!  “I don’t care what you think!,” I said to my dim-witted friend, who I used to think was much smarter than he apparently is. “We’re going to court.”, and I stormed off.

As he walked away, I could hear Al trying to explain ‘double counting’ to his daughter.

Kay Ghean is a resident of Maui