Redistricting in Hawaii

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Redistricting in Hawaii
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General information
Partisan control:
Hawaii Reapportionment Commission
150 days after commission forms
Total seats
State Senate:
State House:
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures

This page is about redistricting in Hawaii.

Hawaii did not gain or lose any seats from the reapportionment after the 2010 census. The state population grew to nearly 1.4 million residents, an increase of 12 percent.[1]


The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission is responsible for redistricting. This is one of 9 commissions nationwide that is responsible for redistricting. Hawaii's redistricting commission is comprised of 9 members, chosen by the following:

  • 2 by the Speaker of the House
  • 2 by the President of the Senate
  • 2 by the House Minority Leader
  • 2 by the Senate Minority Leader

These eight members then vote to appoint the ninth member.

Public Meetings

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission held several public meetings on redistricting. Information on past meetings can be found here.

Public notice controversy

The commission is only required to give three days public notice before meetings. Citizens are required to request to testify at a meeting at least 48 hours prior. This could give citizens only 24 hours to decide to testify, which, according to public advocacy groups, is prohibitive and should be changed. On April 29, 2011, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii, Common Cause Hawaii, and Americans for Democratic Action asked the commission to change this to 6 days public notice, as required by the state sunshine law.[2]

Cost of redistricting

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission required $664,000 in order to contract for redistricting software and equipment. The funds came in the form of an emergency appropriation.[3]

Public input

Members of the public could draft and submit their own redistricting maps on the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission website.


The eight appointed 2011 members failed to meet the 30-day deadline to agree on a ninth member to serve as Chairman. The authority to select the final member went to the Hawaii Supreme Court.[4] The five members of the court all agreed to appoint retired Circuit Court Judge Victoria Marks. Marks, who retired in 2009, served 21 years as a judge. Since retiring, she had been working for Dispute Prevention and Resolution, Inc.[5] The Commission held meetings on May 11, May 24, and June 9.[6]

The 8 appointed members of the 2011 Reapportionment Commission were:[7]

  • Anthony Takitani- (appointed by Senate President) Vice Chair
  • Dylan Nonaka- (appointed by House Minority Leader) Vice Chair
  • Clarice Hashimoto- (appointed by Speaker of the House)
  • Harold S. Matsumoto- (appointed by Speaker of the House)
  • Lorrie Lee Stone- (appointed by Senate President)
  • Terry E. Thomason- (appointed by House Minority Leader)
  • Elisabeth N. Moore- (Appointed by Senate Minority Leader)
  • Cal Chipchase, IV- (Appointed by Senate Minority Leader)


The commission also formed a subcommittee to handle the more technical details of redistricting. It was composed of four of the commission's members with each selected by one of the four appointing leaders. The members were as follows:

  • Lorrie Lee Stone
  • Cal Chipchase
  • Clarice Hashimoto
  • Dylan Nonaka

Census results

On February 22, 2011, the Census Bureau shipped Hawaii's local census data to the governor and legislative leaders.[8] Detailed data can be found here. [9]

City/County population changes

These tables show the change in population in the five most populous census designated places and counties in Hawaii from 2000-2010.[10]

Census Designated Place 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Urban Honolulu Not applicable 337,256 Not applicable
East Honolulu Not applicable 49,914 Not applicable
Pearl City 30,976 47,698 54.0%
Hilo 40,759 43,263 6.1%
Kailua 36,513 38,635 5.8%
County 2000 Population 2010 Population Percent Change
Honolulu 876,156 953,207 8.8%
Hawaii 148,677 185,079 24.5%
Maui 128,094 154,834 20.9%
Kauai 58,463 67,091 14.8%
Kalawao 147 90 -38.8%

Redistricting maps

Figure 1: This map shows the Hawaii Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Abercrombie floats multi-member districts

Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) suggested that the state consider returning to multi-member districts. Abercrombie argued that the system gives new, up-and-coming politicians a better shot at election since they could more easily capture the second or third most votes in multi-candidate races. Hawaii used to employ multi-member districts, but that system was overturned in a 1981 federal lawsuit.[11][12]

However, according to the Hawaii Attorney General's office, the Reapportionment Commission could consider multi-member districts without a constitutional amendment. According to reports, this opinion was based on the fact that the old, multi-member districts were drawn according to registered voters rather than residents. This practice led to significant deviation among districts and was primarily responsible for the court's intervention. The US Supreme Court has upheld multi-member districts provided they do not dilute the voting power of minorities or political groups.[13]

Non-resident populations may shift districts

At the time of the redistricting process, Hawaii and Kansas were the only states that excluded non-resident military personnel in redistricting calculations. However, Hawaii's policy changed during the 2011 redistricting process, giving representation to the nearly 72,000 non-residents on the islands. Advocates of their inclusion argued that military personnel deserve representation because they pay sales tax and form an important part of the economy. However, including non-residents threatened to change the outcome of state legislative redistricting.[14]

The Oahu Advisory Council passed a resolution urging the state to include non-residents. Doing so could allow Oahu to retain its current Senate seats and prevent the Big Island from gaining one.[15]

Commission to count non-residents

On June 28, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted 8-1 to include non-resident students and military personnel in redistricting calculations. In addition, the Commission also included sentenced felons in these calculations. The change in policy from previous decades was expected to benefit Oahu and prevent it from losing a senate seat. The sole "no" vote on the Commission came from Anthony Takitani, the only member who was not a resident of Oahu.[16]

Big Island Democrats threaten lawsuit

Although Commission Democrats were strongly supportive of the decision, voting 3-1 for the inclusion of non-resident populations, there was a strong pushback from fellow Democrats on the Big Island. Sen. Malama Solomon, Rep. Cindy Evans, Rep. Robert Herkes, and several others pressured the Commission to reverse its decision. In addition, some threatened to challenge the decision in court.[17] However, the Hawaii County Reapportionment Advisory Council recommended delaying legal action until plans were drafted.[18]

Dept. Attorney General issues advisory opinion

Attorney General David M. Louie (D) approved an advisory opinion written by Deputy Attorney General Charleen Aina, stating that the Hawaii Supreme Court would be likely to overturn the Commission's decision. She cited a 2005 case in which the court ruled that the term “resident population,” as found in the Hawaii County Charter, only referred to actual residents for purposes of local redistricting.[19][20]

Aina argued that the Supreme Court was likely to reach a similar decision at the state level. She contended, "The Hawaii Supreme Court would likely hold that to the extent they are identifiable, non-resident college students and non-resident military members and their families cannot properly be included in the reapportionment population."[21]

Commission releases draft maps

On August 3, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission released its redistricting plans. The commission released two draft Congressional plans and one plan each for the House and Senate. The committee was expected to approve three draft plans on August 5, eliminating one of the proposed Congressional maps. The legislative plans would not pair any state senators, but would draw three pairs of state representatives in the same districts. The deadline for preliminary plan approval was August 8 while the deadline for final approval was September 26.[22]

The draft maps can be found here.

Incumbents paired:

Commission selects Congressional plan

The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission decided on preliminary plans for the state's two Congressional districts. Prior to the decision, the commission was considering two different maps, one that drew Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa outside her district and one that did not. After the committee reached a 4-4 partisan deadlock, Supreme Court-appointed Chair Victoria Marks cast the deciding vote in favor of keeping Hanabusa in her district.

No law requires members of Congress to reside in their district. In fact, Hanabusa was elected in 2010 while living outside District 1. As promised, she moved her residence into District 1 after the election.

Since the commission selected preliminary maps, it then held a second round of public hearings in advance of the September 26 final plan deadline.

Djou considers challenge to Hanabusa

According to reports, former Congressman Charles Djou (R) was considering challenging sitting Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D). Djou won the seat in a May 2010 special election after Hanabusa and Ed Case (D) split the Democratic vote. Hanabusa regained the seat in the November 2010 election, defeating Djou in a head-to-head match-up. However, redistricting threatened to soften Hanabusa's district, opening the door to a Republican challenge.[23] Djou later filed to run, winning the Republican primary on August 11, 2011.[24]

Panel may be forced to count non-residents

In late June, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission made the controversial decision to include non-resident military and student populations in redistricting calculations. Despite threats of a lawsuit over the decision, school and military data might not be detailed enough for commissioners to reverse the decision and separate out non-residents. Several significant disparities were discovered between military/student figures and census data. In response, Commission Chair Victoria Marks said, "We'll continue to try to get information from the military so that we have reliable data... We're still in the process of speaking with the military and we'll see where that goes." Commissioner Terry Thomason called the situation a "terrible dilemma."[25]

Panel to exclude some non-residents

On September 19, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission voted to exclude about 16,000 military and non-residents in the state. The decision was a partial reversal of an earlier decision to include non-residents. The original vote was opposed by Big Island officials since the additional population could distort population counts in favor of greater representation for Oahu. However, the decision did not appear to remove enough non-resident population from Oahu to shift a Senate seat to the Big Island.[26][27]

The Commission planned to give final approval to the state’s new maps on Monday, September 26 (the deadline for plan completion). The maps up for approval were released to the public on Friday, September 23 and mostly resembled the preliminary plans released in August.[28][29]

Panel approves final plans

On September 26, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission gave final approval to the state's redistricting plan, partially excluding the state's non-resident population. Because of the inclusion of some non-residents, the Big Island would not gain an additional seat in the Hawaii State Senate. Groups from the Island of Hawaii were expected to challenge the plans in court.[30]

  • The approved plans can be found here.

Commission to meet and make revisions

After their legislative redistricting plans were struck down, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission announced that it would meet on January 20 to begin revising the maps.[31]

Commission requests additional funds

On January 30, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission requested an additional $90,000 to redraw its overturned redistricting maps. The commission also requested an additional $235,000 to retain its own attorney -- the Commission argued that the state inadequately defended them during the legal challenge over redistricting.[32]

New drafts released

After seeing its first plans struck down by the Hawaii Supreme Court, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission drafted new redistricting maps for the state. The maps, tentatively approved on February 15, excluded another 100,000 non-residents. The plan paired 10 incumbents in the House and moved a Senate seat from Oahu to the Big Island. The drafts then faced a public comment period. Final plans were to be approved by February 27.[33][34][35]

  • Drafts of the new plans can be found here.

New drafts revised

On February 27, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission released updates to their revised redistricting maps. The updates were made in response to comments made about the revised maps released after the ruling. The changes would affect several Oahu House districts, reunifying several communities on the island. These amendments would not change the number of incumbents paired by the plan.[36] A list of the communities affected can be found here.

Commission finalizes plans

On March 8, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission approved new legislative districts for the state. The first set of legislative maps approved by the Commission were invalidated by the Hawaii Supreme Court. The Commission released draft maps on February 15. However, two further rounds of revisions were made to those drafts, one reunifying communities on Oahu and another addressing concerns that the plan favored House leadership. Opponents of the plan (who prompted the second round of revisions) were not entirely satisfied and hinted at the possibility of further legal action.[37][38]

Legal Issues

Big Island Democrats challenge redistricting plan

In October 2011, Sen. Malama Solomon and several other Democrats filed suit, challenging the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission's decision to include most of the state's non-resident population in its redistricting counts. In past redistricting efforts, the state had excluded non-resident military and student populations. Their inclusion in 2011 redistricting calculations boosted the population of Oahu and deprived the Big Island of additional representation. The Commission argued that it excluded all the non-residents that it could given vague data.[39]

  • A copy of the petition can be found here.

Kona lawyer files second challenge

On October 13, 2011, attorney Mike Matsukawa of Kona filed a lawsuit challenging Hawaii's redistricting plans. Unlike the first lawsuit which centered on the fact that non-residents were included, Matsukawa argued that the Reapportionment Commission did not try in "good faith" to exclude non-residents. He contended that the commission's eleventh-hour decision to exclude some non-residents was partially responsible for its inability to exclude them all. Matsukawa suggested that the late decision did not allow enough time to determine the actual feasibility of separating out non-residents.[40]

  • A copy of the petition can be found here.

Governor, Reapportionment Commission file briefs

On November 25, 2011, the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission filed a brief defending the state's redrawn political lines against two legal challenges. Filed by Sen. Malama Solomon and several other Democrats, the first lawsuit challenged the Hawaii Reapportionment Commission's decision to include most of the state's non-resident population in its redistricting counts--a change of policy that cost the Big Island a new Senate seat.[41] Unlike the first lawsuit which centered on the mere fact that non-residents were included, the second lawsuit argued that the Reapportionment Commission did not try in "good faith" to exclude non-residents. In past redistricting efforts, the state excluded non-resident military and student populations. However, the Commission argued that it excluded all the non-residents that it could given vague data.[42]

Named as a defendant in the first challenge, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie sided with the plaintiffs and asked the court to order the Commission to start over. The Commission, in turn, asked for the cases to be dismissed and for their attorney fees to be reimbursed by the plaintiffs. The cases were heard by the Hawaii Supreme Court.[43]

Redistricting plans overturned

On Wednesday, January 4, 2012, Hawaii's Supreme Court sided with plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the state's legislative redistricting plans. The court ruled that non-residents could not be considered in reapportionment. The Hawaii Reapportionment Commission was ordered to redraw the maps. Earlier in the year, the commission decided to consider some of the state's non-resident population in its redistricting calculations.[44]

  • The orders in the two cases can be found here and here.

Commission asks Supreme Court to reconsider

On January 13, the Hawaii Redistricting Commission asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to reconsider its overturned redistricting plans. The commission argued that the representation provided by Deputy Attorney General Russell Suzuki was inadequate. The commission sought private counsel, but the Attorney General refused to either procure or pay for other attorneys. Notably, Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) sided with the plaintiffs despite being named a defendant in the case. The AG's office defended Suzuki's legal representation.[45]

It was revealed that the invalidated maps cost Hawaii taxpayers around $600,000. In addition, some speculated that adjusted redistricting data might not be available in time to make revisions to the map. Hawaii's signature filing deadline was June 5 and the primary was scheduled for August 11.[46][47]

Federal lawsuit filed

On April 6, Hawaii Rep. Mark Takai (R) and several non-resident military personnel filed a federal lawsuit over the revised redistricting map. In revising the redistricting map, the Hawaii Reapportionment Board removed 100,000 non-residents from their calculations. These revisions were ordered by the Hawaii Supreme Court following a state lawsuit.[48]

  • The petition in the lawsuit can be found here.

Lawsuit can move forward

A federal challenge of Hawaii's revised redistricting maps got the go-ahead on April 10, 2012. A three-judge federal panel heard the case. The original maps were struck down by state courts for including non-resident military personnel and students in population calculations. The federal suit argued that these individuals should have been included.[49]

Elections, lawsuit can proceed

On May 22, a federal panel refused to overturn Hawaii's redistricting plans. The court's denial of a preliminary injunction allowed both the lawsuit and the state's elections to proceed. The lawsuit argued that non-resident military personnel and students should have been included in the state's redistricting calculations. However, the court held that overturning the plan would not allow sufficient time to implement an alternative.[50]

  • The court's order can be found here.

County maps


The Hawaii County Council held a special meeting on March 1 to approve the Mayor's nominees for the County Redistricting Commission. The Mayor submitted his list of names on February 15, leaving, he said, plenty of time prior to the March 1 deadline for the council to vote. However, some saw the short amount of time as forcing the council to approve all choices. Councilwoman Brenda Ford interpreted a no vote as violating the county charter, as it states that the commission has to be in place the next day.[51] She stated, “If each council member cannot vote except to rubber stamp the mayor’s choices, we the people no longer have a representative government."[52]


Prior to statehood, 1900-59

The Territory of Hawaii was created by the Organic Act of 1900, which provided for a popularly elected legislature who was to be in charge of reapportioning itself by population. However, legislators ignored this, leading to a federal suit in 1955 to require reapportionment.

The Court took jurisdiction of reapportionment, finding the legislators in violation of equal protection and due process. Although this was appealed, it was rendered moot by an amendment to the Organic Act which stated that reapportionment would take place as set out in the proposed state Constitution. Prior to the 1958 elections, Hawaii's legislature was reapportioned for the first time since 1900.

1968 constitutional convention

In the early 1960s, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled the Hawaii Senate apportionment unconstitutional. This was followed by a series of exchanges between the courts and the legislature, and led to the 1968 constitutional convention, which had reapportionment as its focus. Delegates would end up offering voters three proposed amendments dealing with apportionment and districting, future reapportionment, and minimum representation for basic island units, all of which were approved.

Among the results of the convention was the use of registered voters as a population base due to the high number of military personnel and tourists, the division of the state into four basic island units, and the establishment of an appointed reapportionment commission. This commission, which is still used today, first met in 1973.[53]

2001 redistricting

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[54]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.32%
State House Districts 20.1%
State Senate Districts 38.9%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Lawsuits related to the 2000 Census

There were no lawsuits related to the Hawaii 2000 census redistricting process.[55]

Constitutional explanation

With respect to redistricting, the Hawaii Constitution provides authority for and outlines the duties of a reapportionment commission in Section 2 of Article IV.

Article IV is entitled Reapportionment and has ten sections detailing the process in the state. Section 6 sets the following 8 criteria for "apportionment within basic island units":

  • 1. No district shall extend beyond the boundaries of any basic island unit.
  • 2. No district shall be so drawn as to unduly favor a person or political faction.
  • 3. Except in the case of districts encompassing more than one island, districts shall be contiguous.
  • 4. Insofar as practicable, districts shall be compact.
  • 5. Where possible, district lines shall follow permanent and easily recognized features, such as streets, streams and clear geographical features, and, when practicable, shall coincide with census tract boundaries.
  • 6. Where practicable, representative districts shall be wholly included within senatorial districts.
  • 7. Not more than four members shall be elected from any district.
  • 8. Where practicable, submergence of an area in a larger district wherein substantially different socio-economic interests predominate shall be avoided.

See also

External links


  1. Honolulu Star Advertiser, "Hawaii population grows to nearly 1.4 million," December 21, 2010
  2. Star Advertiser, "Redistricting panel's rules inhibit public's participation, groups say," April 29, 2011
  3. Star Advertiser, "Redistricting panel awaits OK of working funds," May 25, 2011
  4. Greenfield Daily Reporter, "Reapportionment panel fails to agree on a leader, leaving decision to Hawaii Supreme Court," April 22, 2011
  5. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Retired Judge Named Hawaii Redistricting Chair," April 29, 2011
  6. Honolulu Civil Beat, "All Together Now: Panel Charts Redistricting Course," May 5, 2011
  7. Hawaii Free Press, "Hawaii 2011 Reapportionment Commission includes Jeff Stone's Wife, Hannemann Staffer married to Rail Contractor," March 20, 2011
  8. PR Newswire, "Census Bureau Ships Local 2010 Census Data to Hawaii," February 22, 2011
  9. Hawaii Reporter,New Analysis on Island Population and Housing Units Now Available on State Website, June 6, 2011
  10. U.S. Census Bureau, "Hawaii Custom tables 2010," accessed March 1, 2011
  11. Star-Advertiser, "Multimember districts being talked up again," May 13, 2011
  12. Star-Advertiser, "Road to reapportionment," May 22, 2011
  13. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "Multimember districts OK, redistricting panel told," June 9, 2011
  14. Greenwich Time, "Troops could tip Hawaii political lines," June 11, 2011
  15. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Oahu Redistricting Panel: Military Should Count," June 15, 2011
  16. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Hawaii Panel Votes to Include Military, Students," June 28, 2011
  17. Hawaii Reporter, "Democrat Lawmakers Threaten Legal Action Over Reapportionment Decision," July 13th, 2011
  18. Big Island Video News, "VIDEO: Hawaii debates state military count decision," July 19, 2011
  19. Star Advertise, "Reapportionment vote unlikely to stand, official says," July 20, 2011
  20. The Maui News, "Attorney general’s office: No on nonresident troops," July 21, 2011
  21. Civil Beat, "Big Island Democrats Challenge Redistricting Plan in Supreme Court," October 11, 2011
  22. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Six Hawaii Reps Could Face Incumbents Next Year," August 3, 2011
  23. Roll Call, "Djou Expected to Try to Win Back House Seat," August 15, 2011
  24. State of Hawaii, Office of Elections, Official 2012 primary election results, retrieved September 4, 2012.
  25. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Hawaii Redistricting Panel Faces 'Terrible Dilemma'," August 17, 2011
  26. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Hawaii Redistricting Panel Excludes Some Military," September 19, 2011
  27. Houston Chronicle, "16K residents cut from Hawaii population base," September 20, 2011
  28. The Maui News, "Panel could affront legal dispute over redistricting," September 22, 2011
  29. Honolulu Star Advertiser, "Reapportionment Commission presents final redistricting maps," September 23, 2011
  30. The Maui News, "Panel could affront legal dispute over redistricting," September 22, 2011
  31. Honolulu Star-Advertiser, "Panel will go back to drawing board Jan. 20 to alter redistricting maps," January 13, 2012
  32. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Hawaii Reapportionment Commission Wants Another $90,000," January 30, 2012
  33. Hawaii Reporter, "Hawaii Commissioners Rushed Redistricting Plan Leaves Many Residents, Legislators Unhappy," February 16th, 2012
  34. Star-Advertiser, "Commission hopes to wrap up election redistricting maps by Feb. 29," February 15, 2012
  35. Star-Advertiser, "New election maps would shift Senate seat from Oahu to Big Isle," February 14, 2012
  36. Honolulu Civil Beat, "New Hawaii Political Boundaries Released," February 27, 2012
  37. Star Advertiser, "Commission gives final approval to new political maps," March 8, 2012
  38. Star Advertiser, "Panel produces amended state House district map," March 6, 2012
  39. Civil Beat, "Big Island Democrats Challenge Redistricting Plan in Supreme Court," October 11, 2011
  40. Civil Beat, "New Plan for Hawaii Legislative Districts Draws Second Lawsuit," October 14, 2011
  41. Civil Beat, "Big Island Democrats Challenge Redistricting Plan in Supreme Court," October 11, 2011
  42. Civil Beat, "New Plan for Hawaii Legislative Districts Draws Second Lawsuit," October 14, 2011
  43. West Hawaii Today, "Commission files brief in reapportionment suit," November 21, 2011
  44. Civil Beat "Hawaii Supreme Court Rejects Redistricting Plan," January 4, 2012
  45. Hawaii Reporter, "Hawaii Reapportionment Commission Wants Second Shot with Hawaii Supreme Court," January 17, 2012
  46. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Hawaii Reapportionment Panel Spent $600,000 on Invalidated Plan," January 20, 2012
  47. Star-Advertiser, "New data will come too late for redistricting fixes," January 21, 2012
  48. Civil Beat, "Military Plaintiffs Take Hawaii Redistricting Plan To Federal Court," April 6, 2012
  49. Civil Beat, "Hawaii Reapportionment Challenge Will Get Day in Court," April 10, 2012
  50. Honolulu Civil Beat, "Elections on Track as Court Rules Against Hawaii Redistricting Suit," May 22, 2012
  51. Big Island Video News, "Hawaii County redistricting controversy begins," February 17, 2011
  52. Big Island Video News, "Redistricting commission approved, controversy remains," March 2, 2011
  53. Policy Archive, "Reapportionment Politics: The History of Redistricting in the 50 States," Rose Institute of State and Local Government, January 1981 (pg.83-92)
  54. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”, accessed February 1, 2011
  55. Minnesota State Senate "2000 Redistricting Case Summaries"