Kaua‘i Considers District Voting for County Council

Dec 28, 2015

Tunnel of Trees Kauai.
Credit Nick Yee

Voters on Kauai elect their County Council members at-large. That means all seven members represent the entire island.  But every other county in Hawaii has some form of district voting and Kauai may be about to move in that direction.  Scott Giarman has more from The Garden Isle.

Kauai voters have considered changing the system of choosing County Council representatives from at-large to district voting since the ‘80s.  Proponents say if Council members represent specific regions of the island they would be more responsive to voters in their area. 

The issue of district voting made it to ballots in 1982, 1996 and 2006. Each time at-large voting prevailed, though by increasingly smaller margins.  But the districting specifics changed each time.  District voting could mean anything from seven independent districts and no at-large members, to three districts and four at-large members.  It is not clear whether those votes rejected the overall concept of district voting or just the specifics of each proposal.

Opponents say Kauai is already too fragmented and that district voting would further divide people.  Former mayor and current County Council member JoAnn Yukimura says “Districting causes separation thinking.  It causes decision-makers to think only of certain groups and certain parts of the island.  It does not require that a council member get to know and understand the rest of the island outside his or her district.”

In 2014, the Charter Review Commission held a series of public meetings on the issue, but they were so poorly attended that the results were unclear.  Now the Commission is conducting a survey and plans to hold more public meetings early next year.  It seems very likely that a charter amendment regarding district voting for County Council will again be sent to Kauai voters, probably on the ballot next November.