State confirms votes for House candidate from American Samoan wo - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

State confirms votes for House candidate from American Samoan won't be counted during primary

the citizenship status of American Samoans is under scrutiny after a state house contender was given the boot by the state. (Image: Timoteo Campaign) the citizenship status of American Samoans is under scrutiny after a state house contender was given the boot by the state. (Image: Timoteo Campaign)
HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The Hawaii Office of Elections confirmed Monday that it would void any votes cast during Saturday's primary election for a Hawaii District 43 candidate from American Samoa because the candidate 'did not meet the constitutional requirements for the office at the time of the filing of her nomination paper.'

Sai Timoteo, who is running for the House seat formerly held by Republican gubernatorial candidate Andria Tupola, is not an American citizen despite having been born in American Samoa. She's considered a U.S. national instead. 

Because she was not a citizen at the time of her filing, the Office of Elections wrote in a statement, 'the nomination paper is deemed to be incomplete and void because it does not contain all of the certifications and requirements of the law to be a candidate for State Representative.'

The situation is raising questions about the decades old policies that bar American Samoan citizens living in the U.S. from voting and running for office. Tupola says that Timoteo should be allowed to run — and that the candidate is being treated like a second-class citizen.

"They're called American Samoans, but yet they have less rights than other American citizens," Tupola said on Thursday.

A lawsuit filed in Utah earlier this year is seeking to grant American Samoan citizens full U.S. citizen rights. It argues that the U.S. Constitution guarantees citizenship to all people born in the U.S. or its territories, but not all American Samoans share this view.

The territory's government opposed a similar lawsuit filed in 2012 partly because of its potential impacts on American Samoa's land tenure system, which bars landownership by people who are not of American Samoan citizenship, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times.

"Similar in the way Puerto Rico decides to be a state or not ... that is a question for American Samoa to take up. It's a question on how they want viewed and treated within the United States," said former state Rep. Richard Fale.

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