Will the Senate Vote to Create a Racial Registry in Hawaii?

About three decades ago, the state of Hawaii decided it could ignore the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution…

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
To administer programs intended to benefit “native” Hawaiians, a 1978 constitutional convention in Hawaii created a public body called the “Office of Hawaiian Affairs” (OHA). The OHA was to be managed by a nine member board of trustees chosen by statewide elections. Not all citizens of Hawaii, however, were eligible to vote for trustees. Anyone not a “descendant of the aboriginal peoples inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands” was barred from voting in an OHA election (and from running for an OHA seat).
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court held that denying citizens the right to vote because of their racial ancestry violated the 15th Amendment (Rice v. Cayetano [2000]). Cribbing Martin Luther King, the Court issued a reminder that people should be judged on their character and not their race…
The ancestral inquiry mandated by the State implicates the same grave concerns as a classification specifying a particular race by name. One of the principal reasons race is treated as a forbidden classification is that it demeans the dignity and worth of a person to be judged by ancestry instead of by his or her own merit and essential qualities. An inquiry into ancestral lines is not consistent with respect based on the unique personality each of us possesses, a respect the Constitution itself secures in its concern for persons and citizens.
Now, through his sponsorship of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act, Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii is spearheading a move to circumvent the 15th Amendment and set up racially exclusive governance in Hawaii by recognizing native Hawaiians as an Indian tribe. Amazingly, in what is purportedly the twenty-first century, the first action mandated by Senator Akaka’s Reorganization Act is the creation of a government commission charged with classifying and registering American citizens according to race…
The Commission shall–
(A) prepare and maintain a roll of the adult members of the Native Hawaiian community who elect to participate in the reorganization of the Native Hawaiian governing entity; and
(B) certify that each of the adult members of the Native Hawaiian community proposed for inclusion on the roll meets the definition of Native Hawaiian in section 3(10).
Maybe after the racial registry is created, the commission can follow-up by handing out badges to non-Hawaiians, so people won’t get confused about who’s who.
This bill is being considered by the Senate this week. Let’s hope our Senators have the wisdom to vote against establishing racial registration and racially exclusive government within the borders of the United States of America.

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"Aldo" Palazzo
"Aldo" Palazzo
17 years ago

One wonders if the US Supreme Court would rule in a similar vein regarding the proposed Amendment to the RI Constitution in favor of one specific ethnic minority, i.e. the Narragansetts?
What should be of interest to Rhode Islanders is the fact that the “Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act” otherwise known as the “Akaka bill” is opposed by the US Commission on Civil Rights, http://www.usccr.gov/
The report of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding the Akaka bill was published May 4, 2006.
“The Commission recommends against passage of the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2005, or any other legislation that would discriminate on the basis of race or national origin and further subdivide the American people into discrete subgroups accorded varying degrees of privilege.”
The 47-page document in pdf format can be downloaded from
The draft report was approved by a 5-2 vote but was amended during the meeting on May 4, solely to delete the “findings” section (pp. 16-18 of the draft) as an act of conciliation to the begging and pleading of Akaka bill supporters. (Read the findings in the draft report to see the true sentiments of the Commissioners.)
The final report is at
Gail Heriot, a professor at the San Diego University School of Law, opposed the bill before the civil rights commission, arguing that it is unconstitutional on due process and equal protection grounds.
“It would give them political status and power and entitlements and privileges that are denied to all other citizens of the United States,” he said.
“It would assist and enable and aid and abet people of one racial group.
But then again, when does Smith Hill ever consider Federal Constitutional law?

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