Opponents of an election designed to be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block votes from being counted in what they argue is an unconstitutional, racially exclusive process. “This court’s intervention is urgently needed,” said the request filed Tuesday with Justice Anthony Kennedy, who can act on his own or get his colleagues involved. Native Hawaiians are voting to elect delegates for a convention next year to come up with a self-governance document to be ratified by Native Hawaiians. Voting ends Monday. A group of Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians is challenging the election, arguing Hawaii residents who don’t have Native Hawaiian ancestry are being excluded from the vote, in violation of their constitutional rights.
Kennedy requested a response from the lawsuit’s defendants due by 5 p.m. EST Wednesday. Defendants include the state and Nai Aupuni, the nonprofit organization guiding the election process.
Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous group in the United States that hasn’t been allowed to establish its own government.
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright in Honolulu ruled last month the purpose of the private election is to establish self-determination for the indigenous people of Hawaii. Those elected won’t be able to alter state or local laws, he said.