The monthlong Hawaiians-only election that was to end Monday has been extended three weeks.
Nai Aupuni, the organization that is holding the election — one that could lead to a path toward Native Hawaiian self-governance — took the action three days after a court injunction halted any counting of the votes. The results were to have been announced Tuesday.
“Because voters may not have cast their ballots over concerns and questions on the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily stop the vote count, we are extending the voting deadline to Dec. 21, midnight Hawaii time,” Bill Meheula, legal counsel for Nai Aupuni, said in a press release.
About 90,000 Native Hawaiians are eligible to vote for 40 delegates representing the islands. The election is being conducted online and by mail.
The high court did not halt the voting itself. Nai Aupuni again expressed confidence it would prevail in the legal challenge from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii and Judicial Watch, which argue that the election is unconstitutional.
The group, which is funded by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs but is independent, also dismissed protests by some that an aha, or convention, could lead to the loss of ceded land and prevent any chance for Hawaiian independence.
“Nothing is predetermined about the ‘Aha. This is an opportunity to talk about all forms of government, including independence and any recommendation will be taken back to the voters,” said Meheula.
Meanwhile, Grassroot President Kelii Akina released a statement Monday critical of the election extension:
“The decision to extend the election — despite an injunction from the country’s highest court preventing the counting of ballots — continues to divert public funds from meeting the real needs of Hawaiians for housing, education, job opportunities, and health care. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Nai Aupuni have refused to listen to the clear message that a majority of the Hawaiian people do not support this racially exclusive effort. They have now chosen to ignore a further indication from a Supreme Court justice that their process needs review.”
Akina added, “In the wake of low participation by Native Hawaiians and likely low voter turnout, they are taking advantage of a delay they earlier claimed they could not afford.”
The legal challenge is titled Akina v. Hawaii.
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