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Supreme Court rules in favor of fourth Senate seat

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

In a ruling Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the state’s 2012 reapportionment plan that gave the Big Island a fourth Senate seat

At issue was whether to count or omit some military personnel and students when calculating population and determining state legislative districts.

Plaintiffs argued the reapportionment plan wrongfully excluded 108,767 military members, their families and university students.

However, in July 2013, a panel of three federal judges in Hawaii found the plan did not violate the Constitution’s right to equal protection.

The justices affirmed the lower court ruling without comment.

The case is Kostick v. Nago, 13-456.

The Big Island currently is represented by Sens. Gilbert Kahele (District 1 – Hilo), Russell Ruderman (District 2 – Puna, Ka‘u), Josh Green (District 3 – Kona, Ka‘u) and Malama Solomon (District 4
Hilo, Hamakua, Kohala, Waimea, Waikoloa, Kona).

For the full judgement, visit: www.supremecourt.gov/orders/co…

SOLOMON THANKS U.S. SUPREME COURT

State Sen. Malama Solomon issued a public “Mahalo” on behalf of all Hawaii Island residents to the U.S. Supreme Court and the legal team working “to protect Hawaii Island’s right to equal representation as guaranteed by both the U.S. and State of Hawaii Constitutions.”

Solomon’s message of gratitude comes as more than two years of intense litigation concluded Tuesday, Jan. 21, when the U.S. Supreme Court formally resolved a case she and several Hawaii Island residents had taken to the State Supreme Court challenging the 2011 State Reapportionment Commission’s initial plan based on the 2010 Census to count out-of-state military members and their families stationed in the islands and out-of-state students when re-drawing legislative districts.

Solomon and her legal team – working with the State Attorney General – challenged the plan on the basis that it denied Hawaii Island residents equitable representation which they believed required adding a fourth State Senate seat for Hawaii Island because of the nearly 25 percent increase in resident population on the island between 2000 and 2010. During this same period of time, the island of Oahu had experienced only an 8 percent growth.

The addition of a fourth Senate seat to Hawaii Island meant Oahu would lose a Senator.

It became a very complicated case but the heart of the issue was inequitable representation for Hawaii Island residents in the first reapportionment plan, Solomon said. The State Supreme Court agreed with Solomonʻs challenge and the plan was revised, adding a fourth Senate seat for Hawaii Island in the 2012 elections.

In the meantime, however, opponents to the decision filed a judicial challenge to the U.S. Federal District Court (Kostick v. Nago). A three-judge U.S. Federal Court upheld the Hawaii Supreme Court decision. The opposition had an automatic right to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. and did so.

“The battle is over; let us move forward working together for all the people of Hawaii,” said Solomon, who added her acknowledgement of the legal team that served to protect the rights of Hawaii Island residents, including Stan Roehrig of Hilo, Robert Kim of Kona and Peter Esser of Honolulu, and also State Attorney General David M. Louie and Deputy Attorney General Charleen M. Aina.

Solomon also thanked Public Utilities Commission Chair Hermina M. Morita, a former State Representative, for providing testimony for the Supreme Court docket related to her experience representing a “canoe district” – a now illegal practice of combining residents from more than one island into a representative districts of approximately the same population size. Such districts were banned in recent years by the State legislature because they “seriously undermine equitable representation for all residents of the district,” Solomon said.

Morita and Solomon represented “canoe districts” before the Legislature banned this practice.

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