U.S. Supreme Court associate justice temporarily blocks Native Hawaiian vote count


No counting the votes and no announcing the winners — on Friday, associate justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked a vote by native Hawaiians from moving forward.

Voting started earlier this month and is supposed to wrap up Monday.

Native Hawaiian voters are choosing 40 delegates to take part in a constitutional convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified.

Today’s decision does not stop eligible voters from casting a ballot, but it does put the process on hold.

The public policy think-tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii challenged the election, arguing it’s unconstitutional because non-Hawaiians are not allowed to vote.

The group’s president said to exclude others is not in line with the aloha spirit. Kelii Akina said “we are very pleased because this is a victory for the aloha spirit in Hawaii. Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court means we are not going to continue dividing people on the basis of race.

“Over the past few decades, we have seen a growing trend of tension in Native Hawaiians and the rest of the population that’s very un-Hawaiian because we are actually people of inclusiveness,” he said.

KHON2 reached out to both Na’i Aupuni, the organization coordinating the election, and their attorney. In an earlier response to the court’s decision, the group said “reorganizing a government is not easy and it takes the courage and will of the candidates to take the first step in this historic process.

They went on to say they were confident the election will move forward, and “…encourages all voters to continue voting.”

We also reached out to Big Island rancher Freddy Rice, who sued the state more than 15 years ago for the right to vote in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs election, and won.

Rice said “what they (Na’i Aupuni) are trying to do now is go against the arguments in favor of the Rice case, so then you would have to decide which is constitutional and which one isn’t. They can’t be both, because they are opposite.”

We also reached out to OHA, but was told no one would be available for comment.

The chosen delegates won’t be announced until there is further direction from the U.S Supreme Court.

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