A US Supreme Court justice on Friday issued a temporary stay blocking the counting of votes in an election that would be a significant step toward Native Hawaiian self-governance. Justice Anthony Kennedy's order also stops the certification of any winners pending further direction from him or the entire court. 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. They argue it's an unconstitutional, racially exclusive process.
The ruling is a victory on many fronts, said Kelii Akina, one of the Native Hawaiian plaintiffs and president of public policy think-tank Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. "First, it's a victory for Native Hawaiians who have been misrepresented by government leaders trying to turn us into a government-recognized tribe," he said in a statement. "Secondly, it is a victory for all people of Hawaii and the United States as it affirms racial equality." US 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. The challengers appealed and also filed an emergency motion to block the votes from being counted. Last week, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals denied the emergency motion, prompting the challengers to appeal to the high court. Click for more on the story. (Read more Hawaii stories.)