Last Friday, Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy temporarily blocked ballot-counting for a vote that would allow Native Hawaiians to establish their own government within the Hawaiian state. Voting for the controversial measure began on November 1st and was scheduled to end on Monday the 30th. The Supreme Court is expected to issue more orders in the coming week.
The measure would allow Native Hawaiians to elect delegates for a convention next year in order to draft a declaration of self-governance. Currently, Native Hawaiians are the only indigenous community in the U.S. that do not have their own recognized government. The measure has been supported by the state of Hawaii as well as the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The proposal has been challenged by both Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians who say non-Native Hawaiian are being discriminated against and their constitutional rights violated. Only natives are allowed to vote. The Scotus Blog reported:
“Residents of the islands who do not meet that category argued in their plea to Justice Kennedy and the Court that the election, to be followed by a constitutional convention, was not a private matter left to those with the ancestral claim but was a government-sponsored and financed election that must conform to both the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The outcome of the election, they asserted, will have a major public policy impact.”
The state of Hawaii and the non-profit corporation that runs the election told the Court that the election was a private matter and thus the rest of the Hawaiian population without indigenous blood could not participate. The challengers asked the Court to stop the vote count “during the pendency of this appeal.”
Justice Kennedy agreed to block the count and certifying of the vote “pending further order of the undersigned or of the Court.” The ballots cannot be opened and the decision cannot be officially certified until the Supreme Court has concluded ruling.
Last month U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled in favor of the election, stating that those who are elected cannot change state or local laws. Still, some Native Hawaiians remain against the proposal. Kelii Akina, a Native Hawaiian and president of public policy think-tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, told the AP that “racial inclusiveness is at the heart of the aloha spirit.”
On Monday morning Hawaii News Now reported that the voting period has been extended for another three weeks.
“Because voters may not have cast their ballots over concerns and questions on the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s – SCOTUS — 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, the organization that has helped push for Hawaiian self-determination.