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Should voter districts be used in council elections?

By Staff | Sep 24, 2021

Two major, decades-old complaints about the election system for the Maui County Council are that Central Maui has too much voting clout, and that a candidate can lose the race for a district but still be elected to represent it.

Maybe there is a better way.

The Maui County Charter Commission is currently meeting and discussing ideas.

Commissioners have already voted to propose a County Charter amendment that would drastically change the voting process for council elections.

If ratified by voters during the November 2022 election, the proposal would change the current countywide “at-large” election process — in which all county voters select all nine councilmembers — to a system where voters would elect councilmembers from within three regional districts.

The proposal for the three regional districts is: (1) Wailuku/Kahului and Molokai; (2) South Maui, West Maui and Lanai; and (3) Upcountry, Makawao-Paia-Haiku and East Maui.

Under this proposed method, residents in the regional districts would vote for councilmembers residing in the three council residency areas within each district. For example, South Maui, West Maui and Lanai residents would only elect the councilmembers from these three residency areas. The district election would be “at-large,” meaning all voters from that district would vote for the three council seats.

The Charter Commission also approved a proposal to create a County Reapportionment Commission that would be tasked with drawing the boundaries of the regional districts and residency areas based on the recently completed census.

Another proposal is to adopt ranked-choice voting as the electoral system for council elections. A ranked-choice voting system is one in which voters may rank candidates by preference on their ballots — a significant change from our current system whereby voters may only vote for one candidate in each race.

The Charter Commission welcomes your thoughts on these, and other, important topics concerning Maui County government.

To offer your recommendations, visit mauichartersurvey.org. The public is also encouraged to send written testimony via e-mail to Charter.Commission@mauicounty.gov.