© 2023 Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Pair of bills aims to benefit neighbor islands in OHA trustee voting

Catherine Cruz/Hawaii Public Radio

The Senate Hawaiian Affairs Committee has approved a set of measures that would change the way Hawaiʻi residents elect trustees for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

Senate Bill 52 aims to reapportion members of the OHA Board of Trustees so that they are elected by their respective districts, rather than by an at-large statewide election for each seat.

A similar measure, Senate Bill 32 proposes to amend the State Constitution to draw district lines for all OHA board members.

Sen. Kurt Fevella of Oʻahu voted in support of the reforms, saying the current system is unfair to neighbor island voters.

"We on Oʻahu, all of us can put our votes to Molokaʻi or whatever the other districts in Maui, and we would dominate," he said. "And all they gotta do is come here and make sure that they lobby the Oʻahu people to vote for them and they going get in."

"But if the majority of the parameters will be in the district, then only the district can influence the community. So they don’t have to go outside the district and try to get people to vote for them," said Fevella.

The committee also approved a measure that would prioritize the Hawaiian language version of a bill over the English version if the law was originally written in ‘ōlelo Hawaiʻi.

All measures now await a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Related Stories