Alaska’s constitutional convention question, explained

The once-per-decade vote is constitutionally mandated and will appear on the ballot this November.

By Erin McKinstry, special to Alaska Public Media


For three months during the winter of 1955 and 1956, 55 delegates from around Alaska met at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to create the state’s founding document

One of them was Vic Fischer, 31 years old at the time.

“We all had the same goal: Do everything possible to become a state,” he said at his Anchorage home in late August. “We had a totally unified goal. We were doing a job for the future of Alaska. And the key to that was that it was a totally non-partisan politics convention…it’s hard to imagine that today.”

At 98, Fischer is the last surviving delegate from Alaska’s first and only constitutional convention. He said that, being late to the statehood game, the Alaska delegates had the benefit of pulling the best parts from other states’ constitutions and learning from past mistakes.

“[Alaska’s Constitution] is very much like the United States Constitution in that it is short and specific, laying out the foundation for the state without going into a lot of detail that would have required changes,” Fischer said.

The 12,000-word document has been updated 28 times since its passage, with voter-approved amendments to allow for the Permanent Fund, prohibit sex discrimination and create a right to privacy clause, for example. But changing the constitution on a broader and more fundamental level requires a constitutional convention. The state Legislature can call one at any time, and Alaska is also one of 14 states that regularly asks voters directly. The once-per-decade vote is constitutionally mandated and will appear on the ballot this November.

Fischer said the delegates wanted to give people in the future a way to revise the constitution, “so we wouldn’t have a document that just sat on a shelf somewhere and stayed unchanged.”

Read More: Alaska Public Media