Decision upholds CRC 2016 Reapportionment & Redistricting Plan
By: L.N. Reklai
October 17, 2016 (Koror, Palau) There will now be 13 senators instead of 11 according to order issued yesterday by the Appellate Division of Palau’s Supreme Court.
Congressional Reapportionment Commission had filed an appeal challenging the decision issued by Trial Division on September 1, 2016 amending the 2016 Plan by reducing number of senators from 13 to 11.
“The Trial Division’s order amending the 2016 Plan is VACATED. The Trial Division’s decision granting the petition challenging the 2016 Plan is REVERSED and the petition is hereby DENIED,” ordered the Appellate Court.
Ruling in favor of CRC’s appeal, the Appellate Court stated that the main intent of the Constitution’s reapportionment and redistricting provision is to “ensure the preservation of the “one person, one vote” principle” and to achieve this, it should be based on population.
Interpreting the Constitution to say that change must happen every eight years defeats the purpose of the Framers of “one person, one vote” principle, according to the Court.
Which number is a right one if the number of senators is determined based on population, 11 or 13? The CRC reported 12% decline in resident population and the Trial Division had reduced the number of Senators by 12%, from 13 down to 11.
The Appellate Division states that the number of senators is based on CRC’s discretion. In 2008, CRC chose number 13 with no obvious reason. According to the decision, there is no mandated citizen-to-senator ratio in the constitution and that the intent of the Framers was to provide CRC with “broad discretion in devising election schemes”.
Without a constitutional limitation on CRC’s discretion to determine the appropriate number of Senators for a single district, the court sees no reason it should change the number.
The court upheld the Congressional Reapportionment Commission’s 2016 Plan calling for 13 senators in a single district. [/restrict]