HALEIWA—Efforts made last week by members of Oahu’s North Shore community resulted in a stop to a proposed redistricting that would have made the Sunset Beach area a part of the Koolauloa district.
Residents voiced their opposition via a petition and letters sent to the Hawaii 2011 Reapportionment Commission (RC), asking the RC to keep Sunset Beach voters as part of the North Shore.
“I’ve got good news, [the commission] called ... and said the idea is off the table,” State Representative Gil Riviere (R—District 46) said last Friday. Riviere’s office sent out a mass email a day earlier to residents alerting them of the pending division and asking them to speak out to the RC. Riviere is also president of the community preservation group Keep the North Shore Country.
Had the redistricting occurred, residents north of Pupukea Road would have been moved into the Windward side’s Koolauloa district, which stretches all the way to Kaneohe.
“Sunset Beach has long been an important part of our North Shore community and residents are very concerned about the breakup of our community’s representation,” Riviere said in an email. “It was already known that Laie and Kahuku were going to be reunited into a Koolauloa District, but this latest change needlessly divides our North Shore District.”
Redistricting is the process used to ensure each political district has been created equally with population. Redistricting occurs once every 10 years and is often confused with reapportionment, the process of dividing the number of State representatives and senators among the State’s population in order to assure, as close as possible, districts of equal size.
A long time North Shore resident wrote in her letter against the redistricting: “The issues we face as a district are much more similar to those of the Haleiwa/Waialua/Mokuleia community than they are to those on the Windward side. Please do not change our district ... It makes no sense to change the boundaries of the district at this critical moment. We are facing development issues, agricultural issues, as well as wanting the continued sustainability of a relatively rural way of life.”
North Shore resident also Jeannie Martinson circulated a petition around the North Shore that gained 59 signatures in the short time it was active. Community members and Riviere then organized a car pool to bring testifiers to the Hawaii State Capitol on Friday. But because the RC stated early Friday morning the idea was no longer a possibility, the car pool was cancelled.
The commission stated that its initial reasoning for the district change was primarily for counting votes and that the Windward side needed more people in that count.
“The thing is,” Riviere said, “[RC officials] have a five percent tolerance for going up or down to make the numbers acceptable. They would have changed the map, had we not spoken out. Sunset Beach would have been separate.”
In order to even out the voting population without having to redistrict Sunset Beach, the RC made the decision last week to exclude certain members of the military from the population count.
According to the standards and criteria for redistricting, the “permanent resident population in each of the 25 State Senate districts shall be as nearly equal as possible. The population difference between the largest and smallest of the senate districts (the “maximum deviation”) shall be less than 10 percent.”
The RC voted on its reapportionment plan on Monday, September 26.