Wednesday, May 23, 2001

panel optimistic on
finding chairman

The Reapportionment
Commission has until
May 31 to choose

By Pat Omandam

Members of the bipartisan 2001 Reapportionment Commission say they will be able to agree on a chairman before a May 31 deadline.

Those in charge of recommending a nominee to the nine-member panel say there are four or five names in consideration.

But if commissioners cannot agree on someone by next week Thursday, the decision defaults to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to come to an agreement on one person," said member Lori Hoo, who along with Deron Akiona serves on the chairman selection committee.

"I can't speak for the commission, but my preference would be to have it decided by the commission rather than rely on the Supreme Court," said Hoo, community relations director for Hawaiian Electric Co.

Commissioners were given a preview yesterday of the software the Office of Elections will use to redraw Hawaii's congressional and legislative political district boundaries as required by law every 10 years.

The redistricting begins following the release of new population data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

David Rosenbrock, Elections Office project manager, and Royce Jones of ESRI, the company providing the GIS (geographic information systems) and mapping software, showed the panel how easily political boundaries can be moved with a click of a mouse.

The technology allows districts to be expanded or contracted while interactive population totals keep track of a district's size.

This allows commissioners to virtually realign districts by census tract without the heavy number-crunching involved in past redistricting.

The state Constitution requires redistricting to ensure the populations within each district are about the same.

For example, unadjusted population figures from the 2000 Census show each state Senate district should have 48,461 residents, while each state House district should have 23,756 people, Jones said.

As for Hawaii's two U.S. congressional seats, the urban Honolulu seat held by U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie must increase by 6 percent to compensate for growth in the rural district seat held by U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink.

In both cases, it will be up to the commission to decide exactly where those lines will be drawn and whether the population figures used will exclude nonresident military, nonresident students or other nonpermanent state residents.

But first is selection of a chairman. Acting Chairman Rick Clifton said the commission will not be able to conduct any substantive decision-making until then.

However, he said the final selection should not be difficult. "Really, it only takes 10 minutes once somebody makes a suggestion that everybody kind of looks around and says, 'Oh yeah, he or she is OK,'" Clifton said.

The commission has scheduled another meeting for Tuesday.

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