Friday | November 24, 2017
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Ballots go out for Native Hawaiian election

Ballots begin going out today to the 95,000-plus Native Hawaiian voters who registered by the deadline to help choose 40 delegates to an aha, or constitutional convention.

The voters, who will be able to vote electronically or through the U.S. postal system, will pick from more than 200 listed candidates representing various geographical districts. Big Island voters will choose from 32 candidates running for seven seats. Voting ends Nov. 30.

Those who registered to vote should check the list at to ensure their name is on it, according to Nai Aupuni, the independent group set up to oversee the election, convention and ratification process. Those who think they should have gotten a ballot and do not can contact Elections America at or call Elections America toll-free at (844) 413-2929.

“This is an important election for Hawaiians to exercise our right of self-determination and to discuss self-governance,” Nai Aupuni President Kuhio Asam said in a statement Friday. “The candidates in this election are diverse in their ages, backgrounds and purpose and are representative of a cross-section of the Native Hawaiian community. We encourage all certified Hawaiians to vote.”

The 40 candidates who prevail will meet in Honolulu in February to explore what it takes to reach consensus among Native Hawaiians regarding self-determination. They also may propose a governing document for a ratification vote.

Some Native Hawaiians are protesting the process, and six delegate candidates have asked to be taken off the list.

Divisions among Native Hawaiians about what some see as a U.S. government-guided process of recognition escalated Wednesday with the announcement by prominent Native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte of Molokai that he is dropping out of the race. Ritte urged a boycott of what he calls a “continuation of the U.S. goal to illegally occupy the Hawaiian Islands.”

Ritte and others say there is no need for the United States to recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people, similar to how Native American tribes are recognized on the mainland, because Hawaii was never legally annexed as a territory. Without an annexation treaty, the Hawaiian Kingdom continues to exist under international law, regardless of what the United States does or doesn’t do to recognize its people, they say.

Nai Aupuni, in an unsigned statement Wednesday, discounted those concerns, saying all voices should be heard at the convention.

“(T)he fact that some Native Hawaiians protest because they are concerned that their desired outcome will not be accepted emphasizes the need for a Native Hawaiian convention,” Nai Aupuni said in the statement. “Without a process where elected leaders can discuss various options and issues to find a consensus, the Native Hawaiian community will never proceed forward in unity.”


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