By ALEX GIMARC
It’s that time again. Our once-a-decade opportunity as Alaskans to hold a constitutional convention is on the November ballot as Ballot Measure No. 1 – Shall there be a constitutional convention? This question is built into the state constitution in Article 2, Constitutional Conventions, Constitutional Amendments, Sec. 15.50.070.
The question first hit the ballot in the 1970 election. It narrowly passed. But the state judiciary got themselves involved, taking exception with the language of the ballot initiative and summarily threw out the results of the vote. Essentially, the state courts decided that Alaskan voters didn’t understand what they were voting for, a standard they conveniently abandoned in 2020 with Prop 2, the 30+ page rewrite of state election law.
The second time around in 1972, the question failed roughly 2:1, about the same vote in the four subsequent times it was on the ballot.
This time around, it appears that battle has finally been joined, with dark money from the Soros-backed Sixteen Thirty Fund funding near continuous ads in opposition to a possible convention since Sept. 1. I thought 2020’s Prop 2 was supposed to make all that disappear. Apparently not.
Other, local organizations have formed in support and opposition to a possible convention. On the pro convention side, these include Republicans and the former head of Alaska Right to Life. In opposition, we have a list of all the usual big government suspects, including but not limited to various unions, numerous cities, numerous commfish organizations, and any number of non-profits, none of which have been historically in support of a balanced budget, a smaller, less intrusive, or more responsive state government.
The list of those in opposition all by itself makes a convincing argument to support having a convention.
The campaign in opposition at this point seems (like the Petola congressional campaign for November) to be using abortion as their wedge issue, arguing that if such a convention is held, the right to privacy created by the Alaska Supreme Court out of thin air, channeling their inner Brennan and Blackmum (1973 Roe v. Wade authors). I believe this is dead wrong, as the Supreme Court Dodd opinion specifically throws the entire question back to the state legislatures, rather than state courts.
On the political right, the most vociferous supporters of a convention are those who would enshrine the PFD permanently into the state constitution.
From my perspective, this is incredibly high-stakes poker, for if we open the constitution up with a convention, literally anything can happen from a complete rewrite to proposal of some unknown number of constitutional amendments. Those of us on the political right will be playing at a disadvantage, as we do not organize or show up in massive numbers like the political left does. The most recent demonstration of this was the end of the Redistricting Board cycle earlier this year.
If we vote to pass this, We. Must. Show. Up. when time comes for a convention.
My position in support of this puts me in opposition to some very respected people on my side of the political fence. I understand the concern. I really do. Still, there are some very significant things that need to be addressed that will not make it through the legislative process with the government as it currently is structured and operating.
One example would be how to put the state judiciary back into its constitutional box. Over the last few years, judges rewrote election laws on the fly, picked and chose which ballot initiatives they wanted to proceed, and earlier this year even took for themselves the power of the purse, finding a gubernatorial spending veto unconstitutional. This must end, and the only way I know of to end it is via constitutional convention. There are other issues, equally important to their advocates on both sides of the political fence.
My guess that the product of a convention would be some unknown number of proposed amendments presented to Alaskan voters for approval. Alaskan voters will have the final say. I fully expect this to be fought every step of the way in state and federal court (lawfare).
From here, I believe it is time for a convention. A quick look at the opposition should easily tell us who is benefiting from the status quo. Hint: it isn’t the average Alaskan, who is supposed to be in charge in this state.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.