Appeals court rejects bid to stop Native Hawaiian election

By Honolulu Star-Advertiser Staff
POSTED: 11:57 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2015
LAST UPDATED: 12:12 p.m. HST, Nov 19, 2015

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Advertiser

Walter Ritte, center, publicly disenrolled on Oct. 28 from the Native Hawaiian Roll and withdrew his candidacy from the Na‘i Aupuni Native Hawaiian election and convention, calling for a boycott of the election. Alika Desha, left, of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I, gave his support to Ritte, with Ritte’s wife, Loretta.

The organization supporting the Native Hawaiian election said today a challenge to the seating of delegates to a constitutional convention has been rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Na‘i Aupuni, formed as an organization independent from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state, issued a press release this morning saying the appeals court decision means the election can go forward.

“The federal appeals court ruling means that the voting that currently is underway by about 89,000 certified Native Hawaiians can continue,” Na’i Aupuni said in a press release.

The election concludes on Nov. 30 and will seat 40 delegates to the constitutional convention, or ‘Aha, in February. Election results will be announced Dec. 1.

A group of both Native and non-Native Hawaiians had sued to prevent the election, saying it’s unconstitutional to restrict voting to only Native Hawaiians, and U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ruled in October that the election could go forward.

“The Ninth Circuit has correctly rejected the Grassroots Institute’s second legal attempt to stop the election of delegates, said Na‘i Aupuni attorney William Meheula.

“This process will empower 40 Hawaiian delegates to make recommendations on self-governance and any such recommendation will go back to the voters for ratification. For those who have expressed concern about the Na‘i Aupuni process, Na‘i Aupuni directors understand that these are important and sensitive issues, and they ask the voters to consider that the courts have rejected those concerns and to believe in the collective wisdom of the voters and candidates,” Meheula said.