Chair Hee, Vice Chair Shimabukuro, and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii offers comments only on SB212, S.D. 1 which proposes to define “permanent resident” as any person counted as a usual resident of the State of Hawaii in the last preceding United States census as the basis for legislative reapportionment. For more than 40 years the League has been very active in efforts to ensure the right to equal representation for residents of the State of Hawaii, including participation in the 1982 case of Travis v. King that held that voter registration records were not an acceptable reapportionment base.
Since November 1992, when voters ratified “total number of permanent residents” as the
reapportionment base, subsequent State Reapportionment Commissions have struggled with the definition of this phrase, found in Article IV, Section 4 of our State Constitution. If Hawaii persists in using “total number of permanent residents” without a definition, the accuracy of the enumeration extracting nonresidents will continue to be challenged, and Court guidance on proposed Reapportionment plans may be vague. The League of Women Voters applauds this Committee’s efforts to define what this phrase means, but takes no position on this measure at this time.
Examination of this year’s reapportionment process provides insight into the challenge of arriving at an appropriate base without an adequate definition. The 2011 Reapportionment Commission extracted specified identifiable groups totaling approximately 108 thousand people from Hawaii’s total population for reapportionment purposes. Determination of the “total number of permanent residents” was arduous, but from what we can tell the effort was rational. Not all military personnel were excluded. Not all military dependents were excluded, and apparently only all college students who were temporary residents were excluded.
However, obtaining reliable data for this determination was excruciatingly difficult, and was a major factor in slow completion of both the first and second drafts of the 2011 Reapportionment Plan. I emphasize that obtaining such data on nonresident people by relying on informants isjeopardized by the fact that the military and other groups have no legal obligation to cooperate with the State in providing data.
Relying on special informants is not the only method that could be used to determine Hawaii’s “permanent resident” base. The State of Kansas uses an alternate adjustment method in the form of a survey taken in conjunction with the U.S. population census to exclude nonresident population. Using this approach Kansas 2010 adjustment project spent just under $200 thousand supplemented by extensive volunteer efforts, and extracted a mere 13,673 persons, leaving a total population of 2,853,118 persons.
And what happened to district boundaries this year? Obviously, excluding 108 thousand Hawaii residents from the apportionment base has implications for State Senate and State House district boundaries, but it is difficult to reach any conclusions about the impact. It is true that nonpermanent residents weren’t assigned to a district anywhere in the United States for purposes of representation at the State level, because all the other States are relying on the census count to determine representation and these 108 thousand people weren’t included in the census count for any state except Hawaii.
If one believes a fairer or truer apportionment base is the U.S. census of total population, so-called “permanent residents” in the same district with many “nonpermanent residents” who aren’t counted results in too many people per legislator, diminishing the representation for permanent residents. For example, if Oahu’s “properly” represented House districts have 20,000 permanent resident inhabitants, but there are 5 thousand nonpermanent residents in this same district, the argument could be made that the legislator actually represents 25 thousand people, not 20 thousand. This is very serious, leading to challenges to the reapportionment plan.
The use of Federal population data may represent the safest approach in drafting a
reapportionment plan. These plans are critically important in guaranteeing the right to vote as well as the right to equal representation.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.