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Counter of Native Hawaiian Vote subject to angry threats

The Maui News
State News In Brief
Friday, August 30, 1996

HONOLULU (AP) -- It's been threats and a ``steady diet'' of angry phone calls for the lone man responsible for counting the Native Hawaiian Vote ballots.

Russell Mokulehua said since he took the job of counting the ballots from the Native Hawaiian Vote, he's had to encounter an unexpected number of Hawaiians angry because they can't change the way they voted.

``Now that I look back, I think perhaps I was a little naive,'' Mokulehua said.

The mail-in ballot asked Hawaiians whether they wanted to elect delegates to propose a Native Hawaiian government. Mokulehua said that since the beginning of August, he's been getting calls from people who wanted him to reverse their votes.

When he explains he can't tamper with the ballots, callers often turn obscene and their frustrations have turned to threats, he said.

The results of the vote may or may not be released since they are being challenged in federal court. A hearing was scheduled today.

Judge David Ezra said he will rule next week whether the results can be released.

Mokulehua, who has been an observer of state election since 1988, said he doesn't want to be the only one to ever know the results of the vote -- he is eager to tell.

``It's been sitting on my mind,'' he said. ``It feels very burdensome.''

Critics have said the state-run vote is illegal because it discriminates by not letting other races become involved.

But supporters say it is an essential step toward Hawaiian sovereignty.

One other person, Sol Kaho`ohalahala, chairman of the Hawaii Sovereignty Elections Council, is the only other person who knows the results of the vote. He is the only person Mokulehua can legally tell.

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