PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

January 10, 2012

Sins of Commission:
How the Reapportionment Folks Went Off Course

Filed under: HI Politics — Bart @ 1:50 am

For a fuller explanation of this map and its significance, read my testimony, linked below. Click on map for a larger view.

I was going to write a Magnus Opus about the successful legal challenges to what the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission had called, in a moment of optimism, its “Final Plan.”

I worked with a lot of residents from all the counties, Democrats and Republicans both, who opposed this plan to artificially inflate Oahu’s population by counting non-resident military personnel, their dependents and non-resident college students. Through a lot of emails, conference calls, research and “talk story,” we managed to get the job done. Obviously, thanks is owed the attorneys who stepped forward, Stan Roehrig, Bob Kim and Michael Matsukawa. (I hope they can get compensated by the state for their legal expenses). And behind the attorneys was a mini-army of networked, and often frustrated, volunteer citizen activists. In my opinion, the quiet heroes, the citizen activists who started the resistance to this plan, are  couples of Maui Republicans, former State Senator Fred Rohlfing and the former Mayor of Thousand Oaks, California, Madge Schaefer. Both are members of the Maui Reapportionment Advisory Council. They started pushing back against the plan with one hand while trying to rouse the Big Island residents from slumber with their other.

Ian Lind wrote a blog post about the Court’s ruling. I posted a lengthy comment there.  I urge people to read the entries on his blog and join in the conversation by posting your own thoughts. Also Andy Parx of Kauai offers his perspective on the ruling on his blog, “Got Windmills?”.

Robert Thomas live-blogged  oral arguments at the Hawaii Supreme Court. You can read the archived transcript on his blog, Inverse Condemnation. Great technology! Thanks, Robert.

I have  posted a link to my September 19th testimony to the Commission. It provides a good, easy to digest, overview of arguments some of were making to warn  the Commission  from veering so far off course. When the Court repeated some of the same arguments, the Commission finally listened.

Bart Dame testimony, 9-19-11: Click here!

Here’s a link to Ian Lind’s blog post (Ian has a link to the Court ruling):


Andy Parx’s blog:

“Got Windmills”?

Inverse Condemnation’s Live blog and audio recording of the Supreme Court oral arguments:

Live-Blog & Audio Recording



  1. Too much reading! K.I.S.S.!

    I started reading some of the other blog articles. I thought Ian Lind’s research into the 1966 case was fascinating. The Hawaii Free Press articles were so nasty. Who is that guy? Does he even care about trying to be accurate or does he just want to create conflict?

    After reading the other blog articles, I finally read your testimony. It was the clearest explanation! I think you should take that testimony and re-write it as a blog post. It is better than what you have posted above. It is hidden as a separate PDF file. Information wants to be free!

    Glad to see some activity back on the PDH blog. I thought you folks were dead, lol!

    Comment by Sylvie — January 11, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  2. Why hasn’t the commission met to come up with a new plan consistent with the court’s decision? Judge Marks is quoted in the paper saying she is uncertain how to proceed. So call a meeting already with the other commissioners and put your heads together.

    It makes me wonder if they are purposely stalling. What happens if they run out the clock?

    Comment by DanC — January 13, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

  3. Hi Sylvie,

    I appreciate your comment about my testimony. It probably would have made a better post than what I wrote. The title of this piece, “Sins of Commission: How the Reapportionment Folks Went Off Course,” arose when I recently re-read my testimony and I had intended to use the same argument I had in my testimony. I think the commissioners locked onto a framework for understanding the job early on and were not able to let go of it.

    And I think I laid it out, simply and logically in my testimony. But I got off track myself when writing my blog post.

    @Dan C,

    The commission has announced it will be meeting on the 20th. I had expected they would have huddled immediately after the court ruling to weigh their options. So I have also been surprised by their inaction. OTOH, I expect the technical staff may have already drawn up options for their consideration, based upon the earlier proposed “extraction plans.”

    I cannot see any incentive for the commission to “purposely stall.” Dragging this on until closer to the election would not force the Court to accept their plan as submitted. They will have to come up with a plan which reflects a “good faith best effort” to deduct the non-residents at each step. First from the population for allotting legislative seats between the island. (We know in advance this will shift a senate seat to Hawaii County.) Secondly, they need to try to approximate the permanent resident populations in the census blocks on Oahu and produce legislative districts on Oahu which more realistically approximate an equal distribution of permanent residents between the districts. They have to accept the two stages will not produce the same count of permanent residents.

    I believe they can reasonably deduct slightly over 100,000 non-residents from Oahu during the reapportionment calculations. That will not be enough to shift a House seat to Hawaii County. (Sorry, folks.) For the redistricting phase, I would start with the Extraction C numbers. I would NOT propose to extract all of the on-base inhabitants. I would assume a small portion meet the legal definition of “permanent resident” and leave them in. Deputy Attorney General Charlene Aina argued before the Hawaii Supreme Court that Extraction C had overlooked a significant number of military families in Central Oahu. I have not studied her argument closely. The commission should examine the particular circumstances in that case and see if there is a means to satisfy her objection. I believe the redistricting process can probably assign non-residents to particular communities with a high enough degree of confidence in the accuracy of the estimates and probably account for about 80,000 of the non-residents, give or take 10,000.

    In her comments, Judge Marks appears to have been flummoxed by the Court’s refusal to direct them to use Extraction B or Extraction C. I think it was correct for them to not choose either of those Extraction plans. But I also agree with the judge that those plans are approximately correct. It may be premature for me to offer my own “instructions” to the commission, as I do not anticipate being appointed to the Supreme Court for another ten years (give or take). BUt my advice is to tweak Plan C to reflect Aina’s concerns and my concern about a rigid OVER-extraction that ignores the presence of permanent residents in military housing areas.

    Provided they make a good faith effort, I believe such a plan would satisfy the court. The commissioners have to keep in mind that harm is done whether they “over-extract” or “under-extract.” Their comments in the minutes make it very obvious they were only concerned about erring on the side of over-extraction and only gave lip service–and even then only rarely– to the harm that would be caused by under-extraction.

    Comment by Bart — January 14, 2012 @ 2:48 pm

  4. I have to admit that I do not have a complete understanding of all of the issues. But I have read a couple of the postings in this blog and I’ve attend a couple of talks on this. I just can’t get the interest in this that others so obviously have. My only concern is that the commission make an effort. I think that’s what one of the justices said in the news article. The term “permanent resident” is not defined in the law. In fact, the Court said that it’s a “two step” process.

    So whoever says that an “non-permanent resident” is not a “permanent resident” is just wrong. It is whoever the commission says it should be according to a definition which is objective and can be enumerated (ie it’s workable and can demonstrate that the commission has done due diligence). The Court should not have to define a “permanent resident” for the commission. It clearly is THEIR kuleana according to the law.

    For example, if the commission decides that any “permanent resident” is someone who resides in the state for at least one month out of the year, then it might apply this to all college students who reside in this state for at least a semester during the US Census. And the commission can take a small sample of students at each campus during that time period to see which ones drop out before the date. Then apply that rate to the student body as a whole during that period. Different campuses have different rates. But if rates are similar say in Honolulu, then it would be reasonable to just use say the median figure for Oahu. It’ll still be different for each country because the commission’s work is two stage.

    It doesn’t matter what precinct but what island they reside in to determine the number of reps for each county. Within the county, residence should be considered because it is needed to determine the precinct boundaries to equalize the numbers in each precinct. The numbers in the precincts from two different counties may vary IAW the populations of the counties but that is a first stage question and not the second.

    Regarding military, I think that a similar small sample from each county should determine whether they resided in the county during that one month period (ie whether or not they were deployed during that period). The same rate should be applied to all the personnel of record in each county. Of course their residences during that period should be used for the rates for the 2nd stage of the redistricting. Forget tourists, by and large, they’re not here in Hawaii for a month.

    Comment by Al — January 14, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

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