Major political, social battle brewing over new boundaries for legislative districts

In a process that happens only once every 10 years, the proposed electoral map is being blasted by many critics, including Native Hawaiians and politicians.
Published: Oct. 29, 2021 at 5:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There’s a major political and social battle brewing over new boundaries for Hawaii’s House and Senate districts.

The process happens only once every 10 years, but the proposed electoral map is being blasted by many critics, including Native Hawaiians and politicians.

With a huge shift in Oahu’s population to the west, many complain the new maps are breaking up communities and wrecking political careers.

One particular area of concern: The proposed maps lump Waimanalo and Portlock into the same district.

“The Waimanalo-Portlock district seems almost a grotesque poster child for reapportionment abuse,” said John Simonds of Oahu.

The affluent neighborhood of Portlock is part of Hawaii Kai and House District 17.

With a huge shift in Oahu's population to the west, there are a lot of people who suspect the...
With a huge shift in Oahu's population to the west, there are a lot of people who suspect the new maps are breaking up communities and wrecking political careers.(Hawaii News Now)

But under the proposed new map, Portlock would be attached to Waimanalo in House District 51. Some say this would weaken the political clout of a Hawaiian community.

“There’s some concerns about what this could do to the Hawaiian voice and the Hawaiian population as far as whether or not we would be represented,” said Kimeona Kane, of Waimanalo.

“Does it dilute the Hawaiian voice?”

There are also some legislators angry over the proposed map.

“What the commission has provided is some sort of monstrosity, and they’ve taken me out of my district and Ewa Beach,” said state Rep. Matthew LoPresti.

“And they’ve thrown other parts of Ewa Beach in with areas close to Nanakuli with no clear roads that connect them, and pretty clear reasons, political reasons why it’s been done.”

Political analyst Colin Moore said redistricting is a tough job.

“They have to keep all these districts the same size,” he said.

But could the new lines be helping some politicians while hurting others?

“To the extent that there’s gerrymandering going on, I think it has more to do with punishing some legislators and maybe helping others,” he said. “It’s not really partisan gerrymandering.”

Commission leaders note this is only the beginning of the process of seeking public response.

“It’s not a done deal,” said House Minority Leader of the Reapportionment Commission Dylan Nonaka. “That’s definitely not the case.”

“There were changes made 10 years ago and 20 years ago, after the public hearing process,” added Nonaka. “We have to go to the public with something.”

Reapportionment Commission Chair Mark Mugiishi said the controversial map will be changed based on community input in 11 public hearings statewide over the next five weeks.

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