East Hawaii News

Second Attempt to Stop Native Hawaiian Election Rejected

November 19, 2015, 2:30 PM HST
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For the second time, an attempt to put a stop to the Native Hawaiian election being led by the private non-profit organization Na’i Aupuni was rejected.

On Thursday, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a challenge to the ruling handed down by U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright, who ruled against two non-Hawaiians and four Native Hawaiians, who argued that their First Amendment rights were violated by the election, allowing the election to proceed

The lawsuit was filed in August against Na’i Aupuni, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the State of Hawai’i. Judge Seabright ruled against the lawsuit in late October, allowing for the election to continue.

In the lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that a race-based election was no place for state involvement. Those concerns was put to rest by Judge Seabright, who ruled that the election is a private poll and not run by the state.

The election is being hosted to place delegates to a Native Hawaiian constitutional convention, or ‘Aha, that would meet in February to begin work on creating a potential self-determination governing document and ratification referendum of that governing document. The self-governing document could ultimately lead to self-governance under the U.S. Department of the Interior.

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Voting for the ‘aha is currently underway and will conclude on Nov. 30. Forty delegates will be announced on Dec. 1.

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“The Ninth Circuit has correctly rejected the Grassroots Institute’s second legal attempt to stop the election of delegates,” said Na‘i Aupuni attorney William Meheula. “This process will empower 40 Hawaiian delegates to make recommendations on self-governance and any such recommendation will go back to the voters for ratification.

“For those who have expressed concern about the Na‘i Aupuni process, Na‘i Aupuni directors understand that these are important and sensitive issues, and they ask the voters to consider that the courts have rejected those concerns and to believe in the collective wisdom of the voters and candidates.”

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