A group of Hawiians, some of whom won’t be able to vote in a special election that ends on November 30 that is a prelude to recognizing a new Indian-like tribe including many residents, asked the Supreme Court to temporarily stop the completion of that election until their challenge can be decided. In an application filed Thursday night, the challengers argued that the election is based along strict racial lines, and is thus unconstitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment. The election — favored by the state and endorsed by the federal Department of the Interior — will be limited to a voter roll made up of people who can qualify as “native Hawaiians.” The election will choose delegates to a convention to write a constitution for what would be a new government entity, similar to a traditional Indian tribe. The aim is to give those who qualify a right of “self-determination.”
The challengers did not ask the Justices to stop the actual balloting, which actually began on November 1 and concludes a week from Monday, but did request that the Court temporarily bar counting and formal certification of the result. So far, their plea for temporary relief has been denied by a federal trial judge and by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Interior Department entered the case in the Ninth Circuit to oppose any interruption of the election process. It intends, the department said in court filings, to start a process that would recognize a “native Hawaiian” community in Hawaii as a self-governing, sovereign entity, like an Indian tribe.
Although state officials have argued, and lower courts so far have agreed, that the election is purely a private affair among those on the “native Hawaiian” roll, the challengers contended that “there is almost nothing ‘private” about this election.”
They noted that it was set up by a state law passed in 2011, and that a state agency compiled the roll of who would qualify to vote. They also contended that, although the state created a separate entity, named Na’i Aupuni, to conduct the election, that organization is pledged to using the state-compiled voter roll, and that it got $2.6 million of government funds to pay for the election. “The election concerns hugely important questions of public policy,” it added.