Unpacking the 2022 Hawaii Reapportionment/Redistricting Discussion

Summary description of the process

  1. Based on most recent census determination of total permanent residents for the entire state and then broken down by County
  • For example in 2011 the total population of Hawaii was determined to be: 1,251,534
  • Oahu was 846,589. 
  • Hawaii County 183,596
  • Maui 154,544
  • Kauai 66,805

So the big question is how will these population numbers change when the new census information is released later this year? The data is expected to show a loss of population for Oahu and an increase in population for the neighbor-islands – Maui and Hawaii County in particular.  Depending on the amount of population shift it is possible that Oahu could lose 1 to 2 House seats and possibly a Senate seat – and a neighbor-island or 2 could gain those seats.

This is how the raw formula works:

The total resident population of the entire State as determined by the Census is divided by 25 (Senate) and 51 (House) to determine the average/standard number of permanent residents per district.

In 2011 the math concluded that on average all House/Senate districts would contain approximately this many permanent residents per each electoral district:

Senate districts 50,000 permanent residents

House districts 24,500 permanent residents

  • The appropriate number of Senate and House seats are then allocated to each County according to population with some deviation allowed and balanced between House and Senate Seats.
  • Once the size (per population count) of the House/Senate districts is determined and seats allocated amount Counties – then the Reapportionment Commission “redraws the district maps” attempting to maintain the average/standard permanent resident population plus or minus 10%
  • Adjustments can be made as needed: Kauai Example – Receives only 1 Senate seat which is 33% larger than average and but also gets 3 House seats which are smaller than average. Hawaii County Example similar but reversed…they received an additional Senate seat that was smaller in size than average and their House seats were larger.
  • The Reapportionment Commission also designates 12 Senators who will receive initial two year terms so as to ultimately achieve ultimate “staggered terms.”
  • Note: In 2022 all 25 Senators will be up for reelection, 12 will receive an initial 2 year term and 13 will receive a 4 year term.


Section 8. The reapportionment commission shall, as part of the reapportionment plan, assign two-year terms for twelve senate seats for the election immediately following the adoption of the reapportionment plan. The remaining seats shall be assigned four-year terms. Insofar as practicable, the commission shall assign the two-year terms to senate seats so that the resident population of each senate district shall have no more than two regular senate elections for a particular senate seat within the six-year period beginning in the even-numbered year prior to the reapportionment year;

  • The Commission consists of two members appointed by each of the President of the Senate, Speaker of the House, and the minority leader in the House and Senate – plus one more voted on by the 8 appointed…for a total of 9.
  • Public hearings are held and the decision is subject to court review
  • State Law https://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol01_Ch0001-0042F/HRS0025/HRS_0025-.htm
  • State Constitution Article 4 https://law.justia.com/constitution/hawaii/conart4.html
  • A reapportionment commission shall be constituted before May 1 of each reapportionment year.
  • One hundred fifty days from the date on which all members of the commission are certified, the commission shall determine whether or not the plan is in need of correction or modification, make the correction or modification, if any, and file with the chief election officer, a final legislative reapportionment plan.
  • No district shall be drawn so as to unduly favor a person or political party;
  • Except in the case of districts encompassing more than one island, districts shall be contiguous;
  • Insofar as practicable, districts shall be compact;
  • Where possible, district lines shall follow permanent and easily recognized features such as streets, streams, and clear geographical features, and when practicable, shall coincide with census tract boundaries;
  • Where practicable, state legislative districts shall be wholly included within congressional districts; and
  • Where practicable, submergence of an area in a larger district wherein substantially different socio-economic interests predominate shall be avoided.

Updates: U.S. Census Bureau will provide a legacy format summary redistricting data file to all states by mid-to-late August 2021. Unfortunately most states lack the capacity or resources to tabulate the data from these summary files on their own, thus the Bureau will also be providing all states tabulated data in a user-friendly system by Sept. 30, 2021.  

Upon the release of the “legacy format” data, the initial determination of the new allocation of House/Senate seats between Counties can be approximated.  However the actual drawing of new district maps cannot be initiated until the more detailed and more easily usable data is release in late September.

Conclusion: We should have a good idea of which County will lose House/Senate seats and which will gain them – By September 1, 2021. However we are not likely to see the finalized “district map lines” until February of 2022 – possibly earlier or later if the matter is taken to court as has been the case in the past.

This link provides additional information including the names of all of the Reapportionment Commission members and the names of the connected “Advisory Council” – https://elections.hawaii.gov/about-us/boards-and-commissions/reapportionment/

Excellent historical information: Final Report of the 2012 Reapportionment Commission

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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