In November, Voters Face Question of Whether to Rewrite State Constitution
Every ten years the electorate is asked if there should be a constitutional convention
ANCHORAGE - In the November general election, voters will be asked if they want to hold a constitutional convention – a forum in which any aspect of the state's foundational document could be changed.
The question is mandated by the Alaska Constitution itself every 10 years.
To date, voters have said no.
And two delegates to the original constitutional convention say that should be the case again this year.
In the winter of 1955-56, the 55 delegates to the original Alaska constitutional convention reviewed the constitutions of other states.
That led to a decision to offer voters a chance every 10 years to rewrite the convention's work product.
"The reason was that the history of many states showed they had gone for a hundred years or more without updating their constitution, and they had constitutions that were very detailed and they had a lot of stuff that was totally obsolete,” said delegate Vic Fischer.
But the delegates also included a process for amending the constitution one issue at a time, through two-thirds approval of each house of the Legislature, and ratification by voters.
"So when issues came up such as the permanent fund, the constitutional budget reserve, the right to privacy, those were amendments that went through the legislative process, were put before the voters and the voters said yes on those and they became part of the constitution," Fischer said.
Among the last few surviving members of the original convention, Fischer and Jack Coghill said they oppose a free-for-all new convention now.
"I haven't heard anything and we haven't exhausted the amendment process," Coghill said.
Fischer said any move for a constitutional convention this year should have begun a couple of years ago, so that all the implications were clear. But he still thinks that 10-year provision has a purpose.
"There may be a time when enough issues come up that the people of Alaska feel there should be a complete new look at the whole constitution."
But no such momentum appears to exist now.
When the constitutional convention question was last posed, in 2002, almost 72 percent of voters opposed it.