Chair Rhoads, Vice-Chair Har and Committee Members:
The League of Women Voters of Hawaii opposes HB269 which suggests an increase from 3 to 5 years as the minimum time candidates must reside in this State to serve in the State House of Representatives and State Senate.
We believe that a 3-year residency requirement is sufficient time for anyone interested in community improvements and state issues to actively get involved in organizations, community activities and research to qualify for service in the Senate and the House. Some people may feel they need more time and they may wisely defer running for office until they feel prepared. But for those who are eager to serve and feel they qualify, they should be allowed to let the voters judge their readiness.
We support the requirement for candidates to be residents of the district from which they seek to be elected for not less than twelve consecutive months prior to the next succeeding general election, especially since the law makes exceptions for displacements caused by redistricting after the national census. One should feel comfortably a member of the community, sharing the community's dreams and hopes for making the community and the state a better place for themselves and their children, before daring to represent it at the legislature.
For voting, a residency requirement of a year is still in our state constitution in Article II, Section 1 because voters have refused to remove it in spite of the fact that it is against our federal constitution and cannot be recognized. Constitutional provisions governing elections and even candidacies seem not to be easily changed even when they are declared unconstitutional and we should be careful when we amend constitutional provisions that we have good reason to do so. This bill does not provide the rationale for that need.
We urge you to leave the current 3-year state residency requirement as is, and to amend the section on a one-year district residency qualification for voting. Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony.