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Wednesday, August 1, 2001



Committee unveils
new political districts

An official defends the plan
as a fair way to adjust boundaries


By Pat Omandam
pomandam@starbulletin.com

State Reapportionment Commission Chairman Wayne Minami says a proposed legislative redistricting plan does not intend to put individual lawmakers at a political disadvantage.

Instead, he said, it is a good-faith attempt at adjusting political boundaries to jibe with the growth in population.

"Many legislators are impacted by our redistricting," Minami said. "We didn't single out anyone for punishment. We just drew the lines as the new population changes led us to."

art
The commission revealed yesterday its preliminary legislative plan and will vote on the proposal tomorrow.

If approved, the plan will go to statewide public hearings in September, with an eye on approval of a final reapportionment plan in October.

Jean Aoki, legislative chairwoman for the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, said she is concerned the commission considered the location of incumbents' homes in redrawing the district lines.

That is gerrymandering and it should not be happening, she said.

"The selection of the legislators for each district must be left entirely to the voters of each respective district," Aoki said. "Gerrymandering in carving districts must not reflect partisan or internal political purposes."

Minami said commissioners knew where the incumbents' residences were, but they remained focused on a fair apportionment that minimized changes to districts, which under the new legislative plan is more evident on Kauai and the Big Island than it is on Oahu.

"Part of keeping the same districts inevitably meant keeping the incumbent in that position as well. Yes, it's helping the incumbent, but it is also an idea of not making dramatic boundary changes," he said.

Under the plan there are four multi-island districts in the state Senate and four in the state House. These are nicknamed "canoe districts" because it would take a canoe to get from one part of a district to the other part or parts.

In the Senate there is a Hanalei, Kauai-Kailua, Oahu, canoe district as well a Hana, Maui-Puna, Hawaii district.

The other two canoe districts are natural connections between Niihau and Kauai, and between Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and western Maui.

In the House there is a proposed Hanalei, Kauai-Mokuleia, Oahu, district, as well as a Hana, Maui-Puna, Hawaii, district. Two other natural canoe districts exist as well.

On Oahu, House district lines were expanded west from East Honolulu, which lost two House seats to West Oahu. Similarly, Ewa Beach also gained its own Senate seat after it was split off from Makakilo-Kapolei.

Elsewhere, Maui state Rep. Chris Halford (R, Makena-Kihei) said the redistricting puts him out of Upcountry Maui and actually consolidates the South Maui House district.

"The South Maui people survive this drawing very well," he said.



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