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Hale Pai
Pacific American-News Journal

Kepakemapa (September) 1996 Volume 2 Issue 9


73% of Native Hawaiian Voters Say Yes To Sovereignty

September 11, 1996: In a first step toward determining some form of Hawaiian sovereignty, the results were 3 - 1 in favor of a plan to elect delegates to propose a native Hawaiian government.

Some 82,000 ballots were mailed out to those eligible to vote. Approximately 30% of eligible voters responded. “It's a better turnout and percentage vote than that which elected our mayor, governor or president,” said H.K Bruss Keppeler, an election council member and head of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

Asked where the “no” votes came from Keppeler said: “There's still a lot of people for whom the whole idea of Hawaiian indigenous sovereignty is frightening.”

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Chairman, Clayton Hee said, “It's a very high return for mail-in ballot, and it's a clear mandate from those who did vote.”

“This is a culmination of three years of dog-hard work to bring people to a point where they can express their political will,” said Mahealani Kamau'u, a council member and executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp.

The announcement was delayed three times by a series of legal challenges that have yet to be decided. Big Island resident, Harold Rice, a fourth generation Hawai'i rancher, challenged the state's use of tax dollars to sponsor a vote open only to native Hawaiians. It was Rice's appeal of Federal District Judge David Ezra's ruling that the plebiscite results could be released in the public interest that delayed release of the vote results on Monday.

There are still obstacles to overcome such as the question of who should help pay for the process by which Hawaiians will now elect delegates to a convention to draw up a form of government. “There's an undercurrent that perhaps the Native Hawaiian people are getting too much in terms of entitlements. There's going to be a lot of resistance (to the state alone paying for a convention),” said Rep. Dennis Arakaki, chairman of the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee. He suggested that the state, OHA and private sources might equally provide funds for a sovereignty convention. The cost of such a convention could conceivably reach $12 million.

The elections council is scheduled to go out of business December 31, but members have formed a nonprofit group, Ha Hawai'i, to raise funds and continue planning for election of delegates and a constitutional convention. In the meantime, the council will continue its work with a daylong meeting on Saturday and will make a full report to the Legislature and OHA.

There is also the question of how the non-Hawaiian people of the state of Hawai'i and the federal government will react to whatever decisions Hawaiians make regarding sovereignty.

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Copyright 1996 Hale Pai Pacific American-News Journal
Last modified: February 28, 1998

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