WAILUKU - The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission will likely face a legal challenge after it approved a redistricting plan that would prevent a state Senate seat from shifting from Oahu to the Big Island, commission member Tony Takitani of Wailuku said this week.
While the commission voted Monday to exclude from population counts on Oahu about 16,000 students and military who could be confirmed as nonresidents, another 63,000 may still be counted when drawing political districts. That's enough to keep the Senate seat on Oahu, even though the Big Island's population boom would have otherwise led to the creation of a new district there.
"How do I say this nicely? The Big Island lost a senator, man - one that they deserve to have," Takitani said.
While officials know there are more than 47,000 active-duty military personnel on Oahu who are not legal residents and can't vote in the state, Takitani said commissioners decided to count them anyway, giving Oahu a larger population on paper.
Because it's unknown where all those nonresidents live on Oahu, commissioners said it would be too hard to redraw district lines if they were not included in population counts, Takitani said. But he disagreed.
"My argument is to take them off the top and do the best you can," he said. "I can't get over the fact that we know there are 47,000 active-duty personnel that are not permanent residents, and we don't extract them."
He said he was "assuming" Big Island residents would bring a court challenge to the decision.
"I don't think it's over," he said.
Madge Schaefer, chairwoman of the Maui Advisory Council to the Reapportionment Commission, also was upset over the decision.
"They ignored the permanent residents of the Big Island over giving preference to nonresident military," she said.
The decision won't impact Maui immediately, but 10 years from now Valley Isle voters could be in the same position, she said.
Schaefer also said she believed Big Island voters were likely to bring a lawsuit over the decision.
"I'll probably write them a check," she said.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.