The plaintiffs who challenged the state’s latest reapportionment plan, arguing it is unconstitutional to exclude nonresident military and students, got no relief when a three-judge panel issued its decision yesterday.
In an 83-page unanimous decision, the judges ruled that the state’s position was reasonable, data-based, and met constitutional requirements. I’m still wading through the decision, but the judges said the facts in this case were all in the state’s favor.
The court dismissed the idea that Hawaii should have to use the census methodology and definition of “usual residents” to define the population for reapportionment purposes, holding that the state’s use of “permanent resident population” is constitutionally sound. And it upheld the exclusion of those who live here but maintain permanent residence elsewhere as long as these distinctions aren’t vehicles for discrimination.
In the case of the military, those who choose to become Hawaii residents have no problem registering to vote and being included in the resident population base considered in reapportionment, the court noted.
Here’s one key section of the decision:
To summarize, the 2012 Reapportionment Plan resulted from a careful and comprehensive process free from any taint of arbitrariness or invidious discrimination against minority groups or the military. And the record is likewise clear that the Commission faced a mathematical reality—the inclusion or exclusion of non-permanent military and military dependents causes an equal imbalance in either representational equality or electoral equality.
Over and over, the Supreme Court has explained that reapportionment involves fundamental choices about the nature of representation, where states have discretion (absent discrimination) to exercise political judgment to balance competing interests. Given the record presented to us,
we simply have “no constitutionally founded reason to interfere.”
In the absence of discrimination, this principle of deference is dispositive. Daly was apt in applying this “overriding theme in the Court’s prior apportionment cases weighing against judicial involvement,” when it reiterated that “[t]his is a decision that should be made by the state,
not the federal courts, in the inherently political and legislative process of apportionment.” The choice facing the Commission—between representational or electoral equality—was quintessentially political, requiring “the sort of policy judgments for which courts are, at best, ill
It is a very long decision, with much discussion of each particular type of decision made by the Reapportionment Commission.
And although the decision doesn’t give much to the plaintiffs, the case is not over if they follow-through with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Robert Thomas, one of the attorneys for plaintiffs, has collected earlier documents from the case on his InverseCondemnation.com blog.
I’m looking forward to reading his analysis and assessment of this latest ruling.