Sunday, October 21, 2012


How non-Native Hawaiians might use their vote for OHA candidates

by Larry Geller

Are you a non-Native Hawaiian who is uncertain about how to vote for OHA representatives on the mail-in absentee ballot you received a couple of days ago? Or are you thinking you’ll just skip it when you find yourself confronted with unfamiliar names in the voting booth?

The article below, originally posted in 2010, outlines my struggle with the whole issue of non-Native Hawaiians voting for OHA representatives and suddenly having the responsibility of voting for people who would not (and should not) represent my interests, but who should work for the interests of others. It’s a weird twist in American democracy, don’t you think?

My conclusion was to ask those I trust whom to vote for. I did that again this year. Here are the results. This is not an endorsement. It may, however, provide some guidance for the uncertain. It would be better, of course, to seek advice from your own trusted sources.

Update: Later emails suggest preference for Walter Ritte for At Large. If I had written this article today, that’s what I would have put in the table below. Hope this isn’t too confusing.

Haunani Apoliona At Large
Robert Lindsey Hawaii
Kanani Fu Kauai
Dain P Kane Maui


How to cast a vote for the OHA representatives

by Larry Geller

In the (in-?)famous Rice case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the practice of allowing only native Hawaiians to vote in OHA elections. Regardless of how you feel about that, the court has spoken, and so OHA candidates are on your ballot this year.

This is a double-dilemma for those of us who are not Native Hawaiians.

First, whether to vote at all… just because the Supremes said I could vote doesn’t mean that I think its morally or ethically fair that I do so. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs isn’t for my benefit. Regardless of anyone’s feelings or opinions about the organization, I don’t think I, as a non-Native Hawaiian, should vote for its representatives.

The next question is: who to vote for? It’s even worse than the Board of Education slate in terms of public information.

Here’s what I did last time and what I did today: I asked someone. I got some suggestions from a person who should and will vote, a Native Hawaiian whom I trust. She gave me some detail, actually, and I will vote according to her suggestion.

That way I feel better about the question of voting.

Hey—you may not agree, but this works for me, and I’d like to pass on the idea.

I recall speaking to someone about this last election cycle and was told that he had a problem—he didn’t know anyone who identified as Native Hawaiian. Nothing I can do about that, but I suggested that he make an effort and find someone. That’s a whole other conversation and a sad commentary on modern life in Hawaii. I am very aware that on the various boards and groups I participate in, most often there is no Native Hawaiian present in the room. Like I said, that’s another conversation.

Meanwhile, ask someone if you feel as I do and then cast a meaningful vote.

[How to cast a vote for the OHA representatives, 10/20/2012]



I agree it is odd non-Hawaiians should be allowed to vote for OHA trustees. The point of OHA is for Hawaiians to have a process whereby they can democratically pick their own representatives to advocate for their interests and administer their resources.

It is not a surprise to me that a rightwing Supreme Court, packed with unapologetic advocates for American supremacy, should view OHA as Hawaiian self-governance as "racist," even in the limited, restricted and, in part, co-opted form that OHA represents.

As you note, there is a local group of what some call "white-wingers," who also oppose any sort of self-governance for Hawaiians. Some, with Thurston Twigg-Smith as the best example, are the direct descendants AND BENEFICIARIES of the overthrow. Others are recent arrivals, determined to complete the conquest and integration of Hawaiian lands and consciousness. They would allow for a syrupy variant of "the culture" to persist, as it adds value to Hawaii's "brand" in the competitive tourist market.

The local White-Wingers hope to take control of OHA, or to install enough of their people, hostile to the OHA mission, to disrupt its functioning. The extreme lack of public discussion of the various OHA candidates facilitates this effort. If the rest of us are not paying attention, or not voting because OHA "is not our kuleana," we play into the hands of these White-Wingers.

The voting process for OHA is unfortunate in several ways. Only one rep per island and only one rep at-large per election leads to splits and increases the odds of someone being elected through "plunking" by a determined minority. In my view, OHA voting would benefit from having a two round vote process, with the first round held during the primary, to reduce the field to the top two vote-recipients and a run-off held in the General election.

In my view, people should VOTE FOR WALTER RITTE for the at-large seat over Haunani Apolliona. I think Haunani has had many years in OHA to improve things and I think it is time to give someone else a chance. Walter was one of the key founders of the Protect Kaho`olawe Ohana, perhaps the MOST seminal group in re-birthing the struggle for Hawaiian rights. He and his comrades were "thinking outside the box" through the repeated occupation of the island at a time the "commanding heights" of the Hawaiian community were urging cooperation with the political establishment and unwilling to break with their own, internal co-optation with American "patriotism."

Walter has remained a significant player in helping protect Molokai, restoring fishponds and protecting Hawaiian rights. I think it is important his voice be included in the Council of Elders determining which way forward in dealing with the State, the Feds and rebuilding a representative form of Hawaiian self-governance.


I didn't ask my correspondents for a second choice, but one volunteered Walter Ritte.

I'll revise my questioning next election.

The OHA at-large gives us a chance to vote FOR someone instead of the lesser of two evils. I usually abstain from voting in OHA because Iʻm not Hawaiian, but after being asked to vote by Kanaka Maoli I love and respect, I will be voting for Walter Ritte. In Ritteʻs case, the cause of the Hawaiian people, and all people living in Hawaii are at unity: No to GMO!

Walter is still an activist, still out on the street. Heʻs the one that led the successful fight against the patenting of Kalo. I saw him at the recent anti-GMO/label-GMO actions including the one out in the hot sun in front of Monsantoʻs Kunia gate. Hereʻs a video of his position on GMO.

Many thanks, Walter has my vote.

Ritte- At Large
Kapu - Maui
Yadao- Kauai


Hmm.. non-native Hawaiian here. Just received my absentee ballot. No instructions with it.

My question is, is my entire ballot invalidated if I do not vote on a race? If I have to vote, does the ballot actually mean for me to vote on OHA trustees for the other islands if I live on Oahu? If so, I will call my Hawaiian friends. If I am to vote on OHA at large, I'm voting for Walter as he is working on Hawaiian monk seal issues and I respect him. But I don't know the others and am uncomfortable voting in elections that affect others so deeply. I will vote if it would invalidate my other votes for the other offices,after doing some research. Hope to hear from someone today.

You get to vote in each OHA race, including for reps from other islands. You do not have to vote in each race. It will not invalidate your ballot. Even if you were to make the mistake of voting for two candidates when there is only one seat, that mistake would only invalidate your vote on that question, not the entire ballot.

If this is any help, Walter has endorsed:

Yadao for Kauai seat,
Kapu for Maui seat and
Meyers for Big Island.

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