LIHUE — Five candidates from Kauai County have been cleared to campaign in an upcoming private election for Native Hawaiian self-governance.
Eligible voters — those who are Native Hawaiian, at least 18 years of age and certified by the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission — will have a chance in November to elect two of those candidates to seats on a 40-member delegation that will convene in Honolulu this winter at a constitutional convention. The governing document these delegates write will form the foundation of a new government by and for Native Hawaiians.
The nation building process is being organized by Na’i Aupuni, a private nonprofit.
Kauai’s candidates include Samuel Aea, a 56-year-old business owner; Kanani Kagawa Fu, Kauai County’s 34-year-old assistant to the housing director; Mai Ling Haumea, who is 24 years old; Linda Ka’auwai-Iwamoto, a 72-year-old former homestead assistant for the Department of Hawaiian Homelands; and Kuuleialoha Santos, a 40-year-old descendent of salt makers in Hanapepe.
All told, more than 200 delegate candidates across the state were announced Wednesday by Election-America, the private national election company contracted by Na‘i Aupuni.
“The nomination of delegate candidates is a milestone in the upcoming historic election for Hawaiians to determine if a reorganized Hawaiian government will be formed,” said Kuhio Asam, Na‘i Aupuni’s president. “The candidates are diverse in their age, backgrounds and purpose. They are representative of a good cross-section of the Native Hawaiian community.”
The 40 delegates who are ultimately elected will represent Native Hawaiians living in the state as well as Hawaiians living outside the state. The breakdown of delegates is as follows: 20 from Oahu, seven from the Big Island, three from Maui, two from Kauai and Niihau, one from Molokai and Lanai and seven from out-of-state.
Robin Danner, the Roll Commission’s Kauai commissioner, said the opportunity to reorganize a native government is monumental for Hawaiians and Hawaii residents alike.
“When native people are able to govern themselves, control their own resources and focus on the well-being of their people and their cultures, there are more successes,” she said.
The Native Hawaiian community has not had a formal government since the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom in 1893.
The planned election is under fire by a lawsuit that argues it is unconstitutional to restrict voter eligibility by race.
The suit was brought forward by the conservative interest group Judicial Watch and the public policy think tank Grassroot Institute, which is based in Honolulu.
An Oct. 23 court date has been set where a motion for preliminary injunction to stop the election process will be heard, according to Keli’i Akina, Grassroot Institute’s president.
Hawaiians who have not been certified can still apply with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission (www.kanaiolowalu.org) or at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (www.oha.org/registry). Information about the election process can be found at www.naiaupuni.org or by emailing email@example.com. The deadline to be certified is Oct. 15.
Hawaiians who are not sure of their status or have not received any information from Election-America, should verify their status and contact information with the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission at www.kanaiolowalu.org or at (808) 973-0099.