Law | Politics | Federal Recognition

Supreme Court throws wrench into Native Hawaiian election

Children wave the flag of Hawaii. Photo from Office of Hawaiian Affairs / Facebook

Justice Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order on Friday that blocks the counting of votes and the certification of winners in a Native Hawaiian election that's taking place today.

The Na'i Aupuni organization scheduled the election to select delegates for a Native Hawaiian convention. The goal is to create a new constitution for a Native Hawaiian government.

Opponents -- including Natives and non-Natives -- went to court to block the vote, saying the group does not represent the Native Hawaiian people. Some also oppose the idea of a Native Hawaiian government.

Kennedy's order does not explain why he took action. But since the election is restricted only to Native Hawaiians, it's likely that Kennedy believes it goes against the Supreme Court's decision in Rice v. Cayetano.

In that case, the court blocked a state agency from holding an election that was restricted to Native Hawaiians. All Hawaiians, including non-Natives, can now vote for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Non-Natives can also run for office.

Na'i Aupuni is not a state agency but opponents said the organization received state funds to carry out its goals.

People could still vote in the election but Kennedy's order states that nothing can happen "pending further order of the undersigned or of the court."

Get the Story:
Supreme Court justice blocks Native Hawaiian vote count (AP 11/27)

Federal Register Notice:
Procedures for Reestablishing a Formal Government-to-Government Relationship With the Native Hawaiian Community (October 1, 2015)

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