Motion argues canceled Hawaiian election flouts high court

HONOLULU — Opponents of a now-canceled election are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop efforts to send all of the candidates to a convention for Native Hawaiian self-governance.


HONOLULU — Opponents of a now-canceled election are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop efforts to send all of the candidates to a convention for Native Hawaiian self-governance.

Lawyers representing Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians who sued to stop the unique election said they filed a civil contempt motion with the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Calling off the election and forging ahead with the convention by offering delegate positions to all 196 candidates flouts the court’s injunction that blocked the counting of votes and the certification of winners, the motion said.

The Supreme Court granted the injunction earlier this month after a district judge in Honolulu allowed the election to proceed, ruling that it’s a private election to establish self-determination for the indigenous people of Hawaii. Opponents say the process unfairly prevents Hawaii residents without Native Hawaiian ancestry from participating.

Nai Aupuni, the organization created to guide the election process and convention, called off the vote last week, and instead offered delegate positions to all 196 candidates. As of Monday, nearly 100 people accepted, Nai Aupuni said. The others had until 11:59 p.m. Tuesday to decide.

“Having been thwarted in choosing delegates through race-based balloting, respondents seeks to achieve the same result through evasion, … to use the same race-based process to select delegates, hold the convention and referendum, and secure tribal status, before applicants can be heard,” the motion said, which also asks for monetary sanctions.

Nai Aupuni said the motion is without merit.

“Nothing in the Supreme Court order prohibits Nai Aupuni from making this offer and organizing the gathering,” the organization said in a statement.

Nai Aupuni leaders said last week they were canceling the election and forging ahead with the convention, or aha in Hawaiian, because the legal battle would take years to resolve.

Some candidates said they decided to accept delegate positions, but with reservations.

“I’m very unhappy that I’m not an elected delegate,” said Clarence Ku Ching, traditional subsistence and cultural practitioner on the Big Island. “I believe being elected by the people should be part of the process.”

Ching said he reluctantly accepted and is optimistic even though it’s not clear what a meeting of a significantly larger group of delegates will be able to accomplish in four weeks. Plans originally called for 40 elected delegates to meet over eight weeks to come up with a self-governance document for Native Hawaiians to vote on.

“I do believe this is an opportunity for Hawaiians to get together and talk story and not necessarily put out a document,” Ching said.

Native Hawaiians have long sought self-determination, but opinions about what that would look like vary — from federal recognition, to restoring the overthrown Hawaiian kingdom, to dual citizenship.

Lanakila Mangauil, one of the leaders in the fight against building the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, said he also accepted, despite disagreeing with the process, so that he can be a “voice on the inside” to stop efforts to achieve federal recognition.

Retired Waianae charter school principal Glen Kila also accepted, so that he can promote his belief that the kingdom continues.

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