By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday prevented ballots from being counted in an Hawaii election that could lead to people of native Hawaiian ancestry setting up their own governmental body.
The brief order said ballots cannot be counted and no winners certified while litigation challenging the election continues. The four liberal justices on the nine-member court voted against the injunction.
The case concerns an election for delegates who would participate in a native Hawaiian convention that could lead to a form of self-governance. A nonprofit group, Na'i Aupuni, was set up in 2014 to administer the election.
The plan was challenged by state residents who said the election was unlawful because it discriminated between voters on the basis of race. The state said that because the nonprofit group is running the election, rather than the government, normal election laws do not apply.
Voting in Hawaii initially was due to end on Nov. 30 but has been extended to Dec. 21. The Supreme Court's action means that those ballots cast cannot be tallied while an appeals court considers the case.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)