I don’t know how much the Honolulu Charter Commission paid to produce and mail its booklet describing the twenty 2016 Charter Amendments that are on the General Election ballot.
But as far as I’m concerned, the commission’s booklet is pretty much worthless. It fails to present pros and cons for its many proposals. Instead, it states the proposal, and then, in a display of redundancy, describes what the proposal will change.
Take, for example, Amendment 19, which would repeal the requirement that no more than five of the Reapportionment Commission’s members can be from the same political party.
What happens if it passes?
“Appointments to the City Council’s Reapportionment Commission would be made without limits based on party affiliation.”
But I don’t think there would have been a lot of confusion of what repealing the requirement would do. There is, however, likely a lot of uncertainty about who the winners and losers would be in such a proposal. Do voters want to see reapportionment decisions made by a commission stacked to significantly favor one major party over all others by controlling a super-majority of the votes? I doubt it.
And that’s the same with the other proposals. The commission should have provided clear statements of arguments for and against each proposal.
Luckily, the League of Women Voters of Honolulu did a great public service by preparing its own assessment of the pros and cons of the charter commission’s proposals.
Here’s the League’s explanation of that reapportionment commission issue.
• Though the election for charter commission is non-partisan, the appointees to the Commission may not be nonpartisan.
• If there is a majority of reapportionment Commissioners from a single party, it is possible to draw districts in such a way that opponents to the majority party are sequestered in just a few districts, leading to district maps that are skewed towards one party. In effect this may lower or even eliminate the competition for seats. This process is called “gerrymandering.” To ensure fair representation the number of Commissioners from a single party should be limited to five.
• It has been about 20 years since county elections became non-partisan.
• The current charter provision is a vestige of another age and should conform to this reality.
• During the last reapportionment, it was discovered that five of the proposed members were members of the same party, and one member, to serve on the commission, had to resign his party membership.
• The commission also had to verify, with the parties, whether its members were
members of a particular party. That information is confidential.
The Charter Commission failed the public by failing to offer up this kind of summary of each issue.
On the other hand, the League of Women Voters deserves the public’s thanks for providing such a useful resource.