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Elections for Hawaiian Convention Underway

A historic and contested election is taking place this month for Natives Hawaiians that could help determine the direction of self-determination. Starting Nov. 1 for 30 days, about 100,000 Hawaiians registered with the Kana`iolowalu Native Hawaiian Roll Commission can cast their ballot for candidates in their district who would represent them at an upcoming constitutional convention of 40 delegates.

The Molokai ballot has three candidates who are among more than 200 candidates statewide. One of them will represent both Molokai and Lanai at the convention, to be held between February and April of 2016. According to the Roll Commission, just under 3,000 Molokai residents are registered.

The goal of the convention, according to Na`i Aupuni, a nonprofit whose mission is to establish a path for Hawaiian self-determination, is to form a platform for discussion that could lead to the ratification of a constitution or recommendations for future actions. Bill Meheula, Na`i Aupuni attorney, said even if a constitution was drafted, it would have to be ratified by voters through another election.

Elections America, an independent election management and consulting company, has been contracted to process the ballots. Voter registration for this election closed on Oct. 15, but a representative of the Roll Commission said registration is ongoing for future elections.

In September, the U.S. Department of the Interior laid out a procedure for establishing government-to-government relations with the U.S. if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government. While some Native Hawaiians view this as an opportunity for self-determination through federal recognition, others urge steering clear of any ties to the U.S. government and instead, reinstating the Hawaiian Kingdom as a sovereign nation.

With disagreement over what a Hawaiian nation would look like and what path should be taken to get there, some in the Native Hawaiian community are calling for a boycott of the election. However, Meheula said the convention will move forward no matter how many voters cast their ballots.

Look in next week’s Molokai Dispatch for extended coverage of the history, election, concerns and Molokai candidates. In the meantime, here are some quick facts on the who, what, when and how of the election.

Who: Anyone Native Hawaiian who has registered through Kana`iolowalu Native Hawaiian Roll Commission and received a ballot can vote. If you registered but have not received a ballot, election officials ask that you call Kana`iolowalu at (808) 973-0099, Na`i Aupuni (808) 543-3554 or Elections America toll-free at (844) 413-2929. If you did not notify the Roll Commission of an address change, your ballot may have been mailed to the incorrect address.

What: Voters on each island will vote for one or more candidates from their district. Molokai and Lanai combined will be represented by one delegate. Three names appear on the Molokai ballot (information obtained from Na`i Aupuni from candidates’ delegate registration form):

  • Noa Emmett Aluli, a family health practitioner who was involved in the original movement to stop the bombing of Kaho`olawe
  • Lori Buchanan, coordinator for the Maui/Molokai Invasive Species Committee, who has volunteered on several board and commissions at the county, state and federal level
  • Walter Ritte, Jr., community activist and former OHA trustee who is a strong supporter of Hawaiian sovereignty and environmental rights. Though Ritte announced he withdrew his candidacy, a Na`i Aupuni statement says he never officially provided notification of his decision. Thus, his name remains on the ballot and votes cast for him will count toward his candidacy.

When: The voting deadline is Nov. 30. Mail-in ballots must be received at Elections America in New York by that date. Any ballots received after Nov. 30 will not count.

How: If you received a mail-in ballot, return it through the mail in time to be received in New York by the deadline (election officials suggest postmarking one week in advance.) Those who signed up for electronic ballots can vote online. Alternatively, those who received a mail-in ballot can vote online instead by entering the election number and voter pin number found on their ballot by clicking the “vote now” link on naiaupuni.org.

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