HONOLULU - Three federal judges denied a petition for an injunction to Hawaii's redistricting plan that moves one state Senate seat from Oahu to the Big Island and that pits several Oahu incumbents against one another because of the risk to the state's primary and general elections this year and the weakness of the plaintiffs' claims.
Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown and District Judges J. Michael Seabright and Leslie E. Kobayashi denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped state officials from implementing the plan while the court considered the challenge.
The issue involves the counting, or not counting, of 109,000 nonresident military personnel and their dependents and nonresident students in the drawing of state legislative districts. After the Reapportionment Commission included those people in its drawing of legislative House and Senate districts, the Hawaii Supreme Court struck down the plan and laid out "an appropriate method for determining permanent residents by extracting nonresident military personnel and their dependents and nonresident students from the base count," the ruling said.
"The Reapportionment Commission adopted a new plan to comply with that directive."
The new plan moved one state Senate seat from Oahu to the Big Island and pitted a pair of Oahu incumbent senators and several incumbent House members against one another.
In ruling against the injunction, the three-judge panel said that "the plaintiffs have not established a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the permanent resident population basis violates equal protection. Nor do the equities and public interest weigh in favor of an injunction that risks jeopardizing" the primary election set for Aug. 11 and the general election on Nov. 6.
The three-judge panel made it clear that it was not ruling on the issue of the inclusion or exclusion of the nonresidents but on the merits of the preliminary injunction that called for the court to order the state elections officer to halt the implementation of the state Supreme Court-ordered plan and to order the commission to redraw districts including the excluded people.