Brief: Hawaii’s 2012 Reapportionment Plan Denies Equality to Military and Families
News Release from Plaintiffs’ Counsel, Damon Key Leong Kupchak Hastert
The State of Hawaii has a long history of refusing to count military personnel and their families for purposes of reapportioning the state legislature. A brief filed this week in the federal court case challenging Hawaii’s 2012 Reapportionment Plan asks a three-judge federal court to enforce the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The 2010 U.S. Census reported 1,360,301 as the total resident population of Hawaii. The Census includes military personnel, military families and students as residents of Hawaii.
In 1965, in Burns v. Richardson, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Hawaii’s use of its count of registered voters as the population basis for apportionment, a population base which effectively excluded low-registration groups such as military personnel and students, many of whom were below the pre-26th Amendment voting age of 21. Burns was based on the “special population problems” created by a “transient” military, which in the early 60’s was primarily draftees, as the armed services geared up for the conflict in Vietnam. Contrary to popular opinion, the Burns case does not permit the State to ignore military personnel and their families. The Court allowed Hawaii to count only registered voters because there was no evidence doing so would result in apportionment substantially different from that which would have resulted if the State had counted “state citizens.” At that time, unlike today, Hawaii’s voter registration and voter participation levels were the highest in the nation, so a count of registered voters would have produced an apportionment substantially similar to a count of state citizens.
The Hawaii Constitution was amended in 1992 to require the Reapportionment Commission to count only those deemed “permanent residents,” instead of registered voters. Only Hawaii and Kansas use a population base other than the U.S. Census count of residents. In the current reapportionment cycle, Kansas extracted far fewer Census-counted residents than Hawaii, and in its August 3, 2011 proposed plan, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission did not remove anyone. The Commission subsequently presented a second plan which extracted approximately 16,000 military personnel, military families, and students, but included non-citizens, minors, and incarcerated felons who cannot legally vote.
After the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the Commission did not exclude enough people, the Commission “extracted” 108,767 Census-counted residents of Hawaii – nearly 8% of the state’s entire population. These people were not counted by the Census in any other state but Hawaii. The State claims that military personnel excluded from the count do not intend to remain in Hawaii, a conclusion the State reaches only because of a federal tax form (DD2058) in which servicemembers asked a different state to withhold taxes from their pay. Providing information on DD2058 forms may violate the Privacy Act, and the State’s apportionment process cannot be predicated on a violation of federal law. The State also assumes that military family members lack the same intent to remain as their military sponsor.
As set out in the brief, the State has a high burden to show that the conditions that existed in 1965 in the Burns case have not changed. Today, however, the nature of military service has changed: populations are much more stable, we have an all-volunteer force, and military personnel and their families are much more integrated into the community than they were 50 years ago. Additionally, voter participation in Hawaii is now the country’s lowest, and excluding servicemembers and their families from the count does not approximate a count of “state citizens.”