Commentary: It is (past) time to redraw district boundaries

Article II, Section 2 of the American Samoa Constitution states:

“Senators and representatives shall be reapportioned by law at intervals of not less than 5 years.”

The Constitution was written in 1966.  Its authors understood that the population of American Samoa would shift over time. They understood that adjustments to the districts would need to be made over time, so that the districts would be roughly the same size as each other.

But the reapportionment has not taken place, and we now have districts that are of widely varying size.

That means some faipule represent a lot fewer constituents than other faipule, which means that when voting takes place, people who live in large districts are having their interests diluted by people living in small districts.

The population of American Samoa is 55,000 and there are 20 faipule, so each faipule should represent about 2,750 people.

But the population in District 10 (Maoputasi 4—Satala, Atu’u, Leloaloa) is only 1,100 people, while the population of District 15 (Tualauta) is 22,000 people, and includes a large and diverse assemblage of villages, including Tafuna, Petesa, Kokoland, Fagaima, Mesepa, Faleniu, Pavaiai, Vaitogi, and Mapusaga Fou.

If the House were properly apportioned, there would be 8 faipule to represent the 22,000 people living in Tualauta.

Instead, there are 2 faipule from Tualauta, and they are unable to properly advocate for the wide diversity and large number of residents in the district. Moreover, candidates for the Tualauta House seats must campaign every two years in ten sprawling villages and try to visit more than 4,000 households.

Whereas the District 4 faipule must only keep in touch with three small villages and less than 200 households.

Where would you rather campaign?

In 1966, Tualauta County had a population of about 3,000 people and represented about 12% of the territory, but today Tualauta has grown to 22,000 people, and now represents 40% of the territory’s population.

But even though Tualuata’s share of the territory’s population has grown 3.5 times, it has no more representation in the House today than it did back then.

That’s not what the drafters of the American Samoa Constitution intended. It’s time to redraw the district lines so that we have 20 districts and each one has approximately 5% of the territory’s population.


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