Dangerous: A constitutional convention threatens our state’s foundation
Opening up our State’s Constitution is dangerous and threatens our rights.
Most of us can probably point to a state law – or several – that we believe could be improved. But a constitutional convention is not about changing specific laws; it’s about making broad changes to Alaska’s Constitution.
And that means risking the very thing that guarantees our rights, empowers economic development, and safeguards our democracy.
There are two primary dangers of breaking open our entire Constitution. Let’s take a quick look.
If Alaskans vote to hold one, there are several things that must be done to facilitate holding a convention. The Legislature will need to enact new rules governing some convention processes, and then delegates will need to be elected from across the state, likely in November of 2024. The delegates are the ones who will make the decisions about changes to the Constitution at the convention.
Because the entire Constitution will be up for revision, powerful special interest groups will work to prioritize their agendas, spending millions to get their preferred delegate candidates elected to the convention. Rather than determining who from our communities might be the best fit to represent our interests at a convention, Alaskans will be bombarded with outside campaign dollars funding delegate candidates that will protect those special interests. Our founding document is far too important to be subjected to political whims and influencers trying to benefit themselves.
Holding a constitutional convention raises the risk that unprecedented amounts of dark money and outside interests will try to make their mark on our Constitution – and it’s a risk that’s not worth it.
But even if Alaskans are able to weather the storm of outside influence, the convention itself is a dangerous proposition.
Opening Pandora’s box
During a convention delegates will have the opportunity to rewrite literally any section of Alaska’s Constitution. Any section. That means major, important portions of the document could be dismantled or completely rewritten – everything from guns, the PFD, resource development, subsistence, taxes, and more. Challenging and divisive issues would be debated and argued over, fostering discord and disagreement in an already challenging political environment.
If political dysfunction is a problem now, a convention will make it even worse. Delegates could also choose to re-litigate hot-button social and economic issues, exacerbating tensions and divisions. Will it still be legal to drill for oil? Will new taxes be implemented? Will the Permanent Fund itself be put at risk?
Quite literally, opening up our founding document is like opening up Pandora’s box – we might not know exactly what will come out of it, but a lot of it will be bad for Alaska. Those questions in and of themselves will produce a difficult and strenuous environment at the convention, and will also create uncertainty – Alaskans and businesses won’t know what the new document will look like or how it will affect them, and that kind of uncertainty will spiral into its own set of economic headwinds for Alaska.
A constitutional convention is an extreme act that is unnecessary because we already have a proven, effective way to change our laws. Six decades ago, Alaskans designed a solid Constitution to protect our independence from the forces of constantly changing political whims, current events, and Outside influence while also providing Alaskans with the power to change and evolve our state Constitution through voter-approved amendments. If changes to our Constitution are needed, we should use the amendment process – a more effective way to make targeted change that’s been used over 40 times, and that doesn’t carry the same dangers as a convention.
Vote no on a constitutional convention
The Alaska Constitution was designed to protect our rights. Any effort to make open-ended changes to it endangers the balance of government powers that ensures stability and freedom, and prevents one group or one person from controlling our state or infringing our rights.
With a constitutional convention, anything and everything is on the table for revision.
Alaskans have voted “No!” to a constitutional convention five times in our history. Let’s make this year number six.