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Alaskans To Decide On Constitutional Convention

By | October 25, 2012 - 5:15 pm

Constitutional Convention with Convention President and later Governor Bill Egan seated facing convention. Photo courtesy of the Alaska State Museum and Archives

On the November ballot, Alaskan’s will vote on whether the state should hold a convention to amend or revise the constitution. The state constitution requires that the question appear on the ballot every 10 years.

On the November ballot, Alaskan’s will vote on whether the state should hold a convention to amend or revise the constitution. The state constitution requires that the question appear on the ballot every 10 years.

The question is simply, “Shall there be a constitutional convention?” One of the original convention delegates plans to vote no. Vic Fischer spent the winter of 1955 and ‘56 hammering out the details of the state’s constitution with blank other delegates.

He thinks there are some parts of the constitution that could use revising. But he thinks Alaskans are too divided these days to make changes that will stand the test of time.

He says it was very different half a century ago:

“Alaskans were unified in favor of statehood and the constitution was written before we were becoming a state,” Fischer said. “You did not have lobbyists, you did not have special interests pushing in this direction and that direction trying to get their specific babies into the constitution as you would have today.”

But another elder statesman of Alaska politics has a different point of view. Former attorney general John Havelock has written a book, “Let’s Get it Right” arguing it’s time for the state to hold another constitutional convention. He thinks the state’s constitution is an excellent piece of work. But he has a long list of changes he says should be made to make the document more relevant, including protecting the Permanent Fund, making the legislature unicameral, and fixing the initiative process. He doesn’t agree with the argument that special interests would sway the process.

“There’s always contention in politics, but we live in a democracy and we should let the people have a say so on some of these essential issues that have been effectively neglected by the legislature,” Havelock said. “So I just don’t think some of these awful things that people suggest are going to happen, are going to happen.”

Alaska Federation of Native Convention delegates recently approved a resolution calling for a new constitutional convention.

The constitutional convention question has appeared on the ballot four times previously. It has been voted down by large margins every time except the first time it appeared, in 1970. That year, the referendum was approved by a few hundred votes. But on that ballot the question was poorly worded. A judge ordered a new vote and Alaskans turned it down.

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