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73 percent say yes to Hawaiian sovereignty

Supporters say the plebiscite is an important step toward a native Hawaiian government

Honolulu Star-Bulletin
Thursday, September 12, 1996

Star-Bulletin Staff

By nearly 3 to 1, Hawaiian voters have backed a plan to elect delegates to propose a native Hawaiian government.

A total of 22,294 - or 73 percent - of eligible Hawaiians voted in favor, while 8,129 - or 27 percent - voted against the proposal.

Supporters consider the vote a key first step toward determining some form of Hawaiian sovereignty.

Sol Kaho'ohalahala of Lanai, chairman of the Hawaiian Sovereignty Elections Council, announced the results of the historic Native Hawaiian Vote today on the grounds of the State Judiciary Building near the King Kamehameha statue.

"This is a Hawaiian victory," he said.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday lifted a temporary stay order, clearing the way for release of voting results.

About 80,000 people of Hawaiian ancestry were sent ballots between July 1 and Aug. 15 asking whether they should elect delegates to propose a native Hawaiian government.

"This is the 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.

One lawsuit alleges that the vote interferes with the plaintiffs' rights to petition the federal government for sovereignty. Another lawsuit, filed by Big Island resident Harold Rice, challenges the state's use of tax dollars to sponsor a vote open only to native Hawaiians.

Federal District Judge David Ezra, who last week ruled that the plebiscite results could be released in the public interest, said the results would not impede his ability to rule on the constitutional issues.

It was Rice's appeal of Ezra's ruling that delayed release of the vote Monday.

The next step will be to secure funding for an election of between 100 and 200 delegates to a yearlong convention.

The estimated cost is $6 million, said Poka Laenui, a council member who is also known as Hayden Burgess.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, mainland and Hawaii corporations, the state and federal government and donations from the Hawaiian people are possible sources of funding, he said.

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