OHA voter roll rankles 5
Several Hawaii residents, including former Honolulu Advertiser Publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith, are challenging the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs' efforts to help to create a native Hawaiian governing entity through restricted voting.
The other four residents taking exception to the "Kau Inoa" voting registry include Patricia A. Carroll, Toby Kravet, Garry P. Smith and Earl F. Arakaki.
Attorney H. William Burgess said yesterday that his non-native Hawaiian clients should be included in the registry, otherwise the exclusion is a violation of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids race discrimination in public voting.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2000 struck down the practice of letting only people with Hawaiian blood vote for Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees.
Trustees are now selected by qualified Hawaii voters, including non-native Hawaiians.
Office of Hawaiian Affairs Administrator Clyde Namu'o said the Supreme Court decision does not apply to the project to develop a voting registry of people of native Hawaiian blood.
Namu'o said state general funds were used to conduct the election of trustees, whereas ceded-land revenues are being used to finance the voting registry.
Under the Admission Act granting Hawaii statehood in 1959, native Hawaiians were named as one of the five entities to receive benefits from ceded lands.
On behalf of native Hawaiians, the state Office of Hawaiian Affairs has been designated to receive the ceded-land revenues.
Burgess said the source of the money has nothing to do with whether the Office of Hawaiian Affairs can restrict the voting registry based on race.
He said the Supreme Court has determined in the past that any elections involving public issues or public officials can not be restricted based on race, and that Namu'o was incorrect in his interpretation.
"He's just whistling in the dark," Burgess said. "He's grasping at straws."
Namu'o said the intent of the registry is to develop an information base that can be used for an election deciding the next step toward developing a native Hawaiian governing entity.
The registry, begun in 2004 to advance federal recognition of native Hawaiians as an indigenous people, has processed more than 70,000 applicants, according to an OHA official.
Namu'o said the election is no different from those conducted by other native American groups.
"These are not government elections," Namu'o said. "If a lawsuit is filed, we believe we will prevail."