Nai’i Aupuni Extends Voting Deadline After Supreme Court Blocking

A Supreme Court order halting the counting of ballots in an election for Native Hawaiian sovereignty has prompted an extension of the voting period by another three weeks.

Na‘i Aupuni announced that it will keep voting open through Dec. 21. Election results were previously to be announced Dec. 1. Na’i Aupuni is a private non-profit that is organizing the election for delegates to convene in Honolulu this winter to draft a constitution for Native Hawaiian self-governance.

“Because voters may not have cast their ballots over concerns and questions on the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily stop the vote count, we are extending the voting deadline to December 21, midnight Hawaii time,” said Bill Meheula, legal counsel for Na‘i Aupuni.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made the order in answer to an emergency application from two non-Hawaiians, who aren’t eligible to participate in the election, and four Hawaiians who argue that race-based voting is discriminatory under the 15th Amendment.

“This is a significant victory for us,” said Keli’i Akina, president of the Grassroot Institute and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch. “After a full briefing, Justice Kennedy decided that the issue was worthy of further examination and issued the injunction we requested. We are confident in our position and excited at the possibility that it could go before the full court.”

The stay on the counting of votes is in effect until further notice from the court.

A previous attempt to block the election on the grounds that it’s discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional was shot down in October by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright, who ruled that the election is private and private elections are permitted to limit voter eligibility by race.

“This is an election for delegates to a private convention, among a community of indigenous people for purposes of exploring self-determination, that will not — and cannot — result in any federal, state, or local laws or obligations by itself,” Seabright wrote.

Native Hawaiians are the only indigenous group in the U.S. without their own political structure.

Despite the pending uncertaintly about the vote count, Kauai’s eligible voters — those who are Native Hawaiian, at least 18 years of age and certified by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission — still have a chance to elect two candidates to seats on the 40-member delegation.

Kauai’s candidates include:

  • Samuel Aea, a 56-year-old business owner
  • Kanani Kagawa Fu, Kauai County’s 34-year-old assistant to the housing director
  • Mai Ling Haumea, who is 24 years old
  • Linda Ka’auwai-Iwamoto, a 72-year-old former homestead assistant for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands
  • Kuuleialoha Santos, a 40-year-old descendant of salt makers in Hanapepe.

The goal for delegates at the planned convention is to draft a document that will form the foundation of a new government by and for Native Hawaiians.

President Barack Obama announced in Dec. 2010 that the US would support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. The declaration, adopted in 2007, is a non-binding treaty outlining the global human rights of approximately 370 million indigenous people and banning discrimination against them. The US was one of four member states originally opposed to adopting the treaty.

We will see how this unfolds over the next several weeks.

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