Hawaii Community Redistricting Report Card
from Common Cause, October, 2023
In Hawaii, a nine-member commission composed of politicians draws both the congressional and state legislative districts. The members are selected by legislative leaders of both chambers of the state legislature.
Community of Interest Story
In 2021, the Native Hawaiian community of Waimanalo came together to voice their concerns about state house map proposals that would have placed them in a district with the wealthy, predominantly white neighborhoods of Hawaii Kai and Portlock. The concerns of native Waimanalo residents about affordable housing and displaced families were different from those of Hawaii Kai, where million-dollar homes are the norm. Waimanalo residents showed up in force, wrote letters, and testified about their community – and they were heard. Over 100 oral and written pieces of testimony were submitted. One organizer stated: “The community actually engaged. In the final version of the map, that particular district was fixed. The community was very happy […].”
Overall State Grade: B-
Limited public input opportunities: Although the meetings were accessible (most provided access virtually), they did not allow for meaningful opportunities for the public to comment. Maps were made public right before meetings, which did not allow for adequate time to review them thoroughly. Further, at Oahu Island hearings, people could comment only at the beginning of each hearing. Only Hawaii Island allowed people to listen and comment as each agenda item was discussed.
Lack of transparency: Most discussions about the specific details of the maps were not held publicly. Even though the maps were posted publicly and public comment was permitted, many commission meetings were held behind closed doors. As a result, one advocate noted that public distrust in the government was high.
Increased modes of participation make a difference: Due to the pandemic, many public meetings were held virtually and were also recorded and posted online. This granted more people the ability to participate, especially working families strapped for time.
Governmental bodies must invest in outreach and early redistricting engagement: Advocates felt they shouldered the burden to conduct public outreach and education. A state-led, robust outreach program – begun early in the redistricting cycle – would enable more people to engage in the redistricting process and relieve this added burden on community organizations.
Draft maps need to be posted with adequate time to review: Advocates noted the fact that maps were made public right before meetings were held, which did not allow for adequate time to review them and give thorough feedback. Maps should be made available days in advance of meetings to provide sufficient time for review and stronger public input.
KITV: Hawaii earns B- grade for redistricting practices, according to nationwide Common Cause report