Supreme Court Justice Blocks Native Hawaiian Vote Count

AP, November 30, 2015

A U.S. Supreme Court justice on Friday issued a temporary stay blocking the counting of votes in an election that would be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s order also stops the certification of any winners pending further direction from him or the entire court.

Native Hawaiians are voting to elect delegates for a convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified by Native Hawaiians. Voting ends Monday.

A group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians is challenging the election, arguing Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from the vote. It’s unconstitutional for the state to be involved in a racially exclusive election, they say.

The ruling is a victory on many fronts, said Kelii Akina, one of the Native Hawaiian plaintiffs and president of public policy think-tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.

“First, it’s a victory for Native Hawaiians who have been misrepresented by government leaders trying to turn us into a government-recognized tribe,” he said in a statement. “Secondly, it is a victory for all people of Hawaii and the United States as it affirms racial equality.”

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Attorneys representing the state have argued that the state isn’t involved in the election.

“The state has consistently supported Native Hawaiian self-governance,” state Attorney General Doug Chin said in a statement. “This is an independent election that may help chart the path toward a Native Hawaiian government. Today’s order does not prevent people from voting in this election. It only places a hold on counting those votes until the Supreme Court determines how to proceed.”

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka spent about a dozen years trying to get a bill passed that would give Native Hawaiians the same rights already extended to many Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, the state passed a law recognizing Hawaiians as the first people of Hawaii and laid the foundation for Native Hawaiians to establish their own government. {snip}

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Those who support the election say it’s an opportunity to create their own government for the first time since 1893, when American businessmen–backed by U.S. Marines–overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom.

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