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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Hawaii High Court Calls for New State Senate Plan

HONOLULU (CN) - The allocation of Hawaii Senate seats violates the state constitution because it is not based on the total number of permanent residents in each of the island counties, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

Earlier that day, state Sen. Malama Solomon and others filed petitions to invalidate and rescind the 2011 final reapportionment plan adopted and filed in September 2011.

The plan gave 18 Senate seats to Oahu County, three to Hawaii County, three to Maui County and one to Kauai County.

Solomon represents District 1, which includes Waimea, Hamakua, Keaukaha and Hilo on the Big Island. The 2010 U. S. Census reported that the Big Island holds the second largest population in the state, with 185,079, and showed 6.1 percent growth since 2000, second only to Honolulu and its districts.

The petitions for writs of mandamus name Gov. Neil Abercrombie, the State 2011 Reapportionment Commission, Chief Election Officer Scott Nago and others. They claim that the allocation is not based on the total number of permanent residents in each of the counties, as required by the Hawaii Constitution. Excluding permanent residents also allegedly causes Hawaii County to gain a fourth Senate seat and Oahu County to lose a Senate seat.

The court rescinded the plan Wednesday, concluding that the "2011 Final Reapportionment Plan is constitutionally invalid [...] by including non-permanent residents in the population base that the Reapportionment Commission used to allocate the members of the state legislature among the basic island units."

Chief Justice Mark Rectenwald signed the order along with Associate Justices Paula Nakayama, Simeon Acoba, James Duffy and Sabrina McKenna. They promised to render an opinion soon.

Chief Election Officer Scott Nago is now charged with preparing and filing a new plan.

Attorneys Stanley Roehrig, Robert Kim and Peter Van Name Esser represented Sen. Solomon. Deputy Attorneys General Charleen Aina and Harvey Henderson Jr. represented the governor.

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