Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Hawaii State Seal

Some fear
shrinking of district

Rep. Espero thinks his Ewa Beach district will
become smaller

By Pat Omandam

State Rep. Willie Espero knows something must give when a state panel this fall redraws his political district.

The exact boundaries for all of the state's 76 legislative and two congressional seats will depend on the size of the population used and where the redistricting will start -- both decisions left to the 2001 state Reapportionment Commission.

"I expect my district to shrink," Espero (D, Ewa Beach) said yesterday, because more people are moving into his area.

The eight-member bipartisan commission will meet again this afternoon. Members face a Thursday deadline to select a chairman or leave the decision to the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Both Republican and Democratic members on the panel's chairman selection committee have been mulling over a list of potential candidates during the Memorial Day weekend, but it is uncertain whether they will recommend a nominee for approval at today's commission meeting.

The panel also is expected to discuss the use of single-member and multimember districts as it prepares to decide what population base it will use to evenly carve out each legislative and congressional seat.

Twenty years ago, the Reapportionment Commission recommended small multimember districts based on the number of registered voters in the last Hawaii election. The plan, however, was challenged in U.S. District Court, which had invalidated the proposal because the use of a registered-voter base did not follow the U.S. Constitution on reapportionment.

As a result, court-appointed masters adopted a reapportionment plan with 76 legislative districts. The commission adopted a similar plan in January 1984 which remains in use today.

Meanwhile, just where the political pie will be cut is a concern for politicians. There is a strong interest about reapportionment among state lawmakers because the new political boundaries could decide the outcome of a few races next year.

"They need to know where they're going to campaign," Espero said.

Espero, whose district contains 41,033 residents, the most of any House seat, expects his district and that of Rep. Mark Moses (R, Kapolei) will shrink during redistricting.

He believes the commission may add another West Oahu House seat that will be created when urban districts on Oahu are expanded to compensate for decreased populations there, according to the 2000 U.S. Census.

The commission must also decide how to stagger the 25 state Senate seats so half of them are up for election in 2004. All 25 seats are up for election next year.

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