Supreme Court justice blocks vote in Native Hawaiian election

Supreme Court justice blocks vote in Native Hawaiian election

[JURIST] US Supreme Court [official website] Justice Anthony Kennedy on Friday issued an order [order, PDF] blocking the Native Hawaiian Role Commission (NHRC) from counting the ballots and certifying the winner of a wholly native-Hawaiian election now taking place in the US state of Hawaii. In 2011 Hawaii enacted Act 195 [text], which authorized the creation of a race-based voter roll to be used for an election of delegates to a Native Hawaiian convention [application for review, PDF]. In July 2012 the Native Hawaiian Role Commission founded [Judicial Watch report] the Kanaʻiolowalu project [official website], which now has more than 125,000 registrants. The objective of the Kana’iolowalu project is “to reunify Native Hawaiians in the self-recognition of their unrelinquished sovereignty.” The NHRC later created the Na’i Aupuni [official website] to oversee the election, which began on November 1 and remains open until Monday, November 30. Prior to Friday’s order, the results were scheduled to be announced on Tuesday, December 1. The Federal government has supported the elections, and the Department of the Interior intervened [SCOTUSblog report] when a challenge was before the Ninth Circuit to stop any delays in the election. The larger aim or the election is to provide native Hawaiians with a right of self-determination, similar to an indian tribe. Challengers in the suit argue that the election violates the Fifteenth Amendment [text] by discriminating against Hawaii citizens’ right to vote who do not qualify as Native Hawaiians. Further, it is alleged that the use of public funds from state agencies proves the election is public and it is not an entirely private election as the respondents maintain.

In late October, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Hawaii ruled that the Na’i Aupuni election may take place [JURIST report]. Judge Michael Seabright stated [OHA press release] that the election, despite utilizing public funds, is separate enough from the state that it is “essentially a private election” that could be conducted among a specific group. Opponents of the election [Grassroot Institute press release] believe that it is racially discriminatory and that it is wrong to use public funds to promote racial discrimination.