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Elections for Native Hawaiian government may be delayed

    Emerging from the doors of the board room of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs after an all-day session with CEO Kamana'opono Crabbe

A group of organizations leading the process of building a Native Hawaiian government is considering postponing the election of officers until June.

The board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs heard the news at a meeting Thursday.

The consortium of groups spearheading the process wants more time to educate voters.

“They thought it was too soon and too impractical,” said Derek Kauanoe, governance manager at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. “I think they’re more interested in the quality of the nation building process” than the speed, he said.

The most recent plan was to hold the elections in January, but that was a delay from the original timeframe between May and September.

Any formal delay would have to be approved by the board of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, or OHA.

The consortium is made up of Native Hawaiian community groups that meet weekly. They are drafting a new timeline that they hope to present to the OHA board Oct. 16.

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is involved with the consortium but isn’t steering the group, said OHA CEO Kamanaopono Crabbe. That’s an important distinction to critics who don’t want the state government to be involved in the nation building process.

“OHA is not a decision maker,” Crabbe said. “We are purely facilitators.”

The consortium also is working out whether it will have the authority to enter into contracts with election vendors or other third parties. Instead of having OHA handle the money, the group is considering fiscal sponsors and may approach the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, Hawaii Maoli or the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, according to an OHA memo.

The group also is determining how to handle liability issues that may arise during the constitutional convention they eventually plan to hold.

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