Ben Carpenter: A vote for constitutional convention is a vote for justice for all Alaskans

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By REP. BEN CARPENTER

Alaskans have been asking for justice from our judicial system for a long time. Too many Alaskans see the law applied to protect those with money and power but not those without.

The simple truth is that Alaskans need a greater say in selecting judges to break the cycle of injustice in our communities. Improving our judiciary can only happen with a constitutional amendment that reforms Article 4, Section 8 of our State Constitution that empowers four Alaskans on the Judicial Council to choose a list of lawyers the governor must choose a judicial appointment from.

The issue of justice reform unites Alaskans from rural villages and urban centers alike. It also energizes out-of-state interests determined to protect the status quo, which is why there is so much dark money being spent on a “no” vote on a constitutional convention this year.

Alaskans have the authority to demand a constitutional amendment, but Alaskans only have the power to secure one through a constitutional convention.

Here’s why: A constitutional amendment is passed with a simple majority vote during a constitutional convention. The Legislature can also pass constitutional amendments but requires a two-thirds majority vote to do so. This super-majority vote is an impossible hurdle to overcome given the historic makeup of our legislature.

The drafters of our state constitution foresaw times like this when they included the provision for the people to decide once a decade whether to call a constitutional convention or not. The purpose of the convention is to bypass a dysfunctional legislature and enable Alaskans to create their own constitutional amendments.

For decades justice in our villages has been elusive for too many Native Alaskans. For decades Alaska businesses have been asking for an effective spending limit. For decades Alaskans have been asking for the Legislature to be relocated from Juneau, including a successful ballot initiative. For decades the Permanent Fund dividend program worked for Alaskans, but now it has been ruled unconstitutional by the judiciary and ignored by the Legislature. For decades our government has ignored Alaskans’ pleas for action and these important issues have continually been allowed to divide us.

If Alaskans want to stop being divided, ordinary Alaskans need to say “yes” to a constitutional convention and start working together to solve our problems.

A false choice is presented between no constitutional convention and instead, successfully solving our problems under the status quo. History proves that our government will not act to correct itself. The question isn’t can things get worse with a constitutional convention. Things have been worse for too long! The question is can things get better without a constitutional convention? Do you trust your government to correct itself?

The necessity of a constitutional convention is a matter of how serious we are about the rule of law. If we want justice, Alaskans must have the courage to exercise the constitutional authority the state’s framers included in our state constitution by voting “yes” for a Constitutional Convention.

If justice can’t be secured in a constitutional convention, we can’t preserve it in the Legislature.

The question isn’t “Will it get worse?” The question is “Will it get any better if we don’t?”

Ben Carpenter is a state representative for Seward, Moose Pass, Cooper Landing, Sterling, Funny River, Salamatof and Nikiski.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I already voted YES to a Constitutional convention. I’ve been banging my head against a wall of legislators for the past 6 years regarding the PFD. The Alaska State Legislature has proven over and over again that they don’t care to follow the law or the will of the people. Governor Hammond was right when he worried about legislators and special interest groups wanting to steal our money. Writing to them, protesting, numerous expensive special sessions and voicing my concerns at those sessions has done nothing to sway them. If they can’t do their jobs, it’s time we stood together and said “ENOUGH!” It’s the only process I see that is available to us anymore. And if we’re too cowardly to stand up for ourselves, do you think we’ll ever see another PFD again?

  2. Convention YES!!!After getting a mailer against it, and seeing who sponsored the mailer, all leftists and union thieves. I’m now set in my choice

  3. Nowhere have I seen a comprehensive list of recommended Constitutional changes from anyone who is actually in a legislative position to argue for those changes.

    So, not having any of that information,, how would you think I might vote?

    • You make a great point. Given how polarized things are right now it is a big ask for people to trust our politicians with this task without worrying that either side would make changes irresponsibly. It needs to start with some concrete proposals being introduced instead of just talking about what is wrong.

      • Delegates to a ConCon get elected by the people – the delegates run for election based on their positions on topics. Ideas get hammered into concrete language, which the people get to vote on – each proposed amendment individually. Ben Carpenter has set before us topics to consider – given the process, he could not have said more. Thanks Congressman Ben. I don’t trust dark money, but I do trust most of the people.

  4. Problem, Ben, and our reason for voting NO, is Alaska’s easily corruptible election system.
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    Voters have no clue:
    .
    … how Dominion vote-tabulation software or firmware works, what guarantees the vote count won’t be skewed by ephemeral software or crooked operator(s);
    .
    … about the discrepancy between ballots cast and number of voters who voted;
    .
    … whether state voter rolls are verified accurate, current, and populated with lawfully registered voters;
    .
    … to what extent ballot harvesting may have skewed election outcomes;
    .
    … to what extent Zuckerbucks or other “dark money” plays a role in state elections;
    .
    … whether election “observers” are watching up close and personal and know what they’re watching;
    .
    … how many ballots might be “rejected” or “misplaced” or “lost in the mail” to nudge the election outcome in the preferred direction, and who’s watching to assure that never happens;
    .
    … how a credible ballot chain of custody is established with a mail-in vote system.
    .
    So, Ben, Alaska’s Constitution may not be the perfect document, but we’re not about to trust its fate to an election system which is about as imperfect as corrupt hands can make it.

  5. I’m voting yes and encourage everyone else to do the same. The current legislature is too divided to fix anything.

    There is no guarantee that the delegates who attend the convention will come to and draft any solutions. Also no guarantee the ideas that come out of the convention will be passed by the voters.

    But, if we don’t try, Alaskans will stay with the status quo of a legislature that over spends and keeps your PFD.

    Vote Yes for a constitutional convention.

  6. Just look at who’s pumping millions of dollars into the vote no campaign. That speaks for itself. My apprehension has been removed. Let’s stop being a toy for outside money trying to run our state. Whatever they want is bad for us.

  7. At best I was ambivalent regarding the proposed constitutional convention.

    What pushed me over the edge in favor of it was receiving a mailer against it. The mailer detailed the organizations opposing the convention.

    The organizations were generally good ol’ status quo groups who benefit under current regime, even though few of their constituents do.

    The unsaid mantra of those organizations is: let’s not develop our resources and let’s protect the stratified industry of poverty.

    I come from an old union family, been union most of my life, but I long since stopped supporting unions when they unapologetically became a big business unto themselves. Long since gone are the blue collar organizations that fought for the rights of the working middle class.

    No, sorry, if your hands don’t get dirty, you never sweat, and you never suffer for your labor, you have no business in a union…are you listening NEA?

  8. Meanwhile you can do your part to reform the court system by always voting NO on the retention of every judge. If more Alaskans chose this option, eventually the Judicial Council might take notice that they should be more careful with their anointments.

  9. I’m leaning towards voting YES on the constitutional convention but I need a little more clarification. Republicans control the state House and Senate but amendments require a 2/3 majority. What is the majority vote needed by the delegates for an amendment to pass and put on the ballot to voters? It’s my understanding that the legislature will determine how the 65 delegates are elected, true? Concerns?

    Dunleavey, Tshibaka are for a constitutional convention, Murkowski, democrats, Sixteen Thirty Fund are against it. Where does Sullivan stand?

    Some of the key issues addressed by the delegates would be judicial reform, adding the PFD to the constitution, moving the state capital, privacy rights that lead to zero abortion restrictions up until birth, funding for public and private schools, repealing ranked choice voting. Thoughts?

  10. Judging from the comments Alaska is going to make a very similar mistake as with RCV. It’s as simple as looking at who supports each side. The NO side is funded by outside leftist organizations, and they are running a nice little fear campaign to push people away from voting for a constitutional convention. The YES side is supported by Alaskans. Unfortunately, no one looked into who was funding the campaign for RCV, and look where that got us. If the commies want it, Alaskans should oppose it. Simple.

  11. Just let go of the PFD, people, and you will get at least 10 cents on the dollar back for glorious and wondrous things (Depending on what you alloy for). If not, you may go without police and fire and plowed roads etc.etc.
    By the way, when will the Shelter Cove Road be finished, or the new Ketchikan Ferry ramps? It`s been awhile. Do we need an earthquake to get DOT moving? Or just our PFD.

  12. I have been leery of a Constitutional Convention for a long time, but lately I have decided to vote for it for three reasons.
    1.) I would like to see the PFD spelled out clearly in our constitution so that it is no longer a political bargaining chip like it has been ever since Governor Walker took away a big part of the PFD from Alaskan men, women and children down to one year old to pay for government. Taking part of our PFD clearly affects the people in the lower income brackets much more than those in the upper income brackets. However, I would never support a state income tax just to be able to fund a full PFD for all.
    2.) The way that the state chooses the Redistricting Board allows for a conflict of interest to exist because the Alaska State Supreme Court picks one of the members of the board. The Redistricting Board’s decision on how to divide our state into election districts has for the last few decades been challenged in court and always ends up being decided by the state Supreme Court. The supreme court should not have the right to pick a board member.
    3.) Alaska’s Governor should not be limited to picking a judge from a list given to him/her by the Judiciary Council of Alaska.

  13. This, to me, seems the best pitch I have heard for voting “yes”. I voted yes ten years ago, but I will readily admit that it also seemed clear that it was not going to pass at the time, and without an active YES campaign at the time, the likely effect of voting yes was simply to move the dial closer to a Yes vote sometime in the future. Is that sometime this year? The sentiment among Alaska’s political elite today seems to indicate that the question is unlikely to pass this year as well.

    If it does not, I would like to point out something which isn’t getting much consideration. Yes, two-thirds of the legislature coming together to pass a constitutional amendment is unlikely on any of the substantive items today. However, just as with calling a convention at the ballot box, it only takes a simple majority for the legislature to call a convention themselves, which would trigger the exact same process as if it were to be passed by voters on Election Day.

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