Governor proposes to reapportion House districts: One faipule per 2500 voters
In addition to the proposed change to the elect of Senate members, Gov. Togiola Tulafono has also submitted amendments for Fono approval pertaining to changes in House of Representative districts.
Proposed changes to the House districts were announced by the governor on his weekend radio program, where he said his amendment will be one faipule, or House member, per 2,500 voters rather than House members representing individual districts.
He said the current apportionment for Representative districts, which have been in place for a very long time, is at one House member per 400 voters. However, when it comes to large counties, it doesn't work, because it means these large counties should have at least six faipule, and that would be costly for the government.
The constitution and local statute state that there are twenty elected members of the House from seventeen Representative Districts. It also says that Representative District No. 1 (Manu’a), Representative District No. 12 (Ituau county); and Representative District No 15 (Tualauta county but listed in the constitution as Ma’upu county) all have two faipule each in the House.
The constitution further states that senators and representatives shall be reapportioned by law at intervals of not less than five years. However, no reapportionment has been considered for many years, until the 2010 Constitutional Convention when - among the amendments proposed but not endorsed was to increase the number of senators from 18 to 22 and the House from 20 to 25.
On his radio program, the governor said his proposal is that starting in 2013 there will be a reapportionment of the Representative districts and it is to be reviewed every five years.
So the proposal to be sent to the Fono states that starting in 2013, the governor will plan the reapportionment of House voting districts, not by counties, and if endorsed, the new change will take effect the next election year, which is 2014, the governor explained.
If the Fono rejects the sitting governor’s reapportionment, then the matter will be taken to the Appellate Division of the High Court in an appeal to review the governor’s plan and if the court rules in favor of the governor, then the plan can be implemented, said Togiola.
If the appeal is denied, then the court will provide the guidelines to follow in order to be in full compliance with the reapportionment of the governor’s plan, he said.
It’s not immediately clear if the proposed reapportionment of House districts will reduce the number of elected members, keep it the same or increase it.