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Newly drawn legislative district maps will stand

Filing opens for all candidates after court rejects legal challenge

The Legends at Maui Lani, one of the neighborhoods on Maui that will become part of a new legislative district in the 2022 elections, is seen in this photo taken Wednesday afternoon. The newly drawn district maps will stand after the Hawaii Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a legal challenge by a group of Hawaii residents. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

The Hawaii Supreme Court has denied a legal challenge by a group of residents who raised complaints over newly drawn voting districts, including some in Central and West Maui.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald sided with two other justices in a 3-2 vote on Wednesday to deny the petition by the Reapportionment Justice Coalition, a group of 11 Hawaii residents, including one from Kihei.

Nomination papers are now available for all candidates interested in running, the state Office of Elections announced Wednesday following the court ruling. Candidates for state Legislature seats and U.S. representative offices were unable to pull nomination papers when filing officially opened on March 1 while the court sorted out the legal challenge.

“The Reapportionment Commission is extremely grateful that the Hawaii State Supreme Court recognized that our commission followed the appropriate constitutional guidelines, laws and carefully considered public opinion in creating a redistricting plan for 2022,” Mark Mugiishi, chairperson of the commission, said Wednesday.

Mugiishi added that “we are excited that we can move forward with a fair and open election, something that becomes even more important as we witness daily events in the world around us, which reminds us about the premise of democracy, one of our most precious assets.”

Joseph Ventura, a longtime resident of The Legends at Maui Lani, washes his truck at his home Wednesday afternoon. “Maui Lani is a huge growth area,” he said. “When we moved in here, this was just sand behind us.”

Every 10 years following the U.S. census, the Reapportionment Commission meets to review the state’s political districts. The commission spent the past year working to update the legislative maps and finalized the reapportionment plan in January.

In February, the coalition filed a petition with the Hawaii Supreme Court challenging the plan, which Honolulu attorney Mateo Caballero described as “constitutionally defective and invalid” because some House districts didn’t line up with Senate districts.

On Maui, for example, the newly revised Senate District 6 that has long encompassed South and West Maui now includes portions of two separate House districts in Central Maui — Legends at Maui Lani in Kahului, which is part of House District 9, and Waikapu Gardens, which is in House District 8.

Maui County voters will also see changes in:

• House District 8, which included Kahakuloa, Waihee, Waiehu, Puuohala, Wailuku and Waikapu, but has now been removed. A new House District 14 was created to encompass West Maui as well as Kahakuloa, Waihee and part of Waiehu.

Waikapu Gardens resident Lacey Abercrombie walks dog Lilo Wednesday evening. “We moved here 14 months ago,” she said. Under newly adopted legislative maps, Waikapu Gardens and The Legends at Maui Lani are now included in Senate District 6.

• House District 10, which spanned North Kihei, Maalaea and West Maui. It has been redrawn as a Central Maui district covering Wailuku and Waikapu.

• House District 11, which was expanded from Kihei, Wailea and Makena to encompass more of North Kihei, including Kealia Pond.

• House District 12, which no longer includes the Kahului Airport and Spreckelsville. These areas have now been added to House District 13, which includes East Maui, Lanai and Molokai.

Kihei resident Madge Schaefer, who joined in the legal challenge, said Wednesday that the maps were “not perfect, but it’s OK, and we’re going to have to live with it for 10 years.” She said she still has concerns about the Senate district that takes portions of various House districts.

“So the best interests of those citizens in those odd little pockets are not served because they can have a senator representing them and across the street a different senator representing them,” she said.

Schaefer, who sat on the Maui Advisory Council to the Reapportionment Commission in 2001 and 2011, pointed out that there are often legal challenges when the maps are redrawn.

“The bottom line is the Reapportionment Commission should draw lines to benefit the citizens, not the politicians,” Schaefer said. “And sometimes it doesn’t happen.”

To view the newly drawn maps, visit elections.hawaii.gov/about-us/boards-and-commissions/reapportionment/.

The filing deadline for candidates is June 7, with the primary election set for Aug. 13 and the general election scheduled on Nov. 8.

Maui County candidates can pick up nomination papers at the Office of the County Clerk at 200 S. High St., Room 708, Wailuku.

For more information on running for office, visit elections.hawaii.gov/candidates/.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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