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The question of whether non-Hawaiians should vote in the elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs may have been settled by the Supreme Court in Rice v. Cayetano, but has still left some citizens wondering whether they should choose to exercise that right. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is not alone in believing that this is a vote that is properly open to all–a fact that Grassroot President Keli’i Akina recently explained to Honolulu Magazine.

You can read Dr. Akina’s comments below or go here to read the article in its entirety.

Should Non-Hawaiians Vote in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Elections?

Primary election to include OHA races for the first time

By Treena Shapiro

It’s been 14 years since the courts gave non-Hawaiians the right to vote in Office of Hawaiian Affairs elections, which were previously restricted to Native Hawaiians only.

Despite the Rice v. Cayetano verdict clearing the way legally, many non-Hawaiians still feel that OHA trustees should be chosen by Native Hawaiians, who directly benefit from OHA programs and can best decide who will represent their interests. At face value, it can seem like a respectful and politically correct decision. But is it, really?

Not necessarily, according to some Hawaiians—including Louise Carpenter, who says in no uncertain terms that anyone who thinks that OHA’s programs don’t benefit all of Hawaii is wrong. Her point, in a nutshell, is that if the status of Native Hawaiians improves, it’ll be better for the whole state.

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The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which has generally been opposed to Native Hawaiians receiving preferential treatment from the government, believes everyone should vote for OHA trustees. President and CEO Keli’i Akina explained why over email:

“As a native Hawaiian, I believe it is important for all registered voters, regardless of race, to participate in the election of OHA Trustees. This is the way to be culturally respectful because it honors the Hawaiian Kingdom practice that citizenship was not based upon race,” he wrote.

“From the time of Kamehameha the First to Queen Liliuokalani, leaders of multiple ethnicities were appointed to manage the Kingdom’s land and assets for the benefit of all.  Hawaii was the first place in what is now the United States where citizenship and voting were based upon ‘the content of one’s heart, not the color of one’s skin.’”