Answering Questions: What happens if there is a constitutional convention?

  • If Alaskans vote to hold a convention, it will kick off a 4-step, multi year process of revising our founding document.
  • There are a few things we know about the process, and a lot of details that are up in the air.
  • The uncertainty a convention would cause is reason enough to vote NO on Ballot Measure 1 this year, and reject a constitutional convention.

Alaskans have rejected a constitutional convention each time the ballot question has come up, and our coalition is hard at work urging voters to do so again this November. However, the question remains: if voters did decide to hold a convention, what would happen?

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding what could happen, but there are a few things we do know based on past research, practice, and some assumptions about how legislative bodies in Alaska operate. Here’s what to expect:

Step 1: 2023-2024 – The State Legislature Enacts New Rules Governing the Constitutional Convention.

Currently, the Constitution stipulates that a second convention would follow the same rules as the first. However, the rules from the 1955-1956 convention are obsolete, as they’re based on the territorial days and a smaller population. In order for the convention to be productive and functional, the legislature would need to update the rules. We don’t know what the new rules would look like, but they’ll probably update how delegates are elected to ensure fair representation, and things of that nature.

Importantly, the Legislature may not limit the subjects or way in which the convention makes changes. The Constitution states that the convention has “plenary power” (i.e., complete power with no limitations) over how it operates and revises the entire document.

Step 2: 2024 – Delegates Run to be Elected to Serve at the Constitutional Convention.

Once rules are set, delegates to the convention will need to run to be elected, likely in the November 2024 General Election. Sitting Legislators are eligible to serve as delegates.

It’s unclear what the delegate election process will look like. It’s anticipated that significant amounts of money will pour in to try to influence Alaskans as we select delegates and try to shape the outcome of the convention before it even begins.

Step 3: 2025 -? – The Convention is Convened, and Makes Changes to the Constitution.

Once delegates are elected, the convention is convened, and the delegates may begin discussing nd rewriting the constitution. Again, the convention has plenary power, so anything and everything in the constitution will be up for grabs to be revised.

We don’t know how long the convention will be, either. The 1955-56 convention was about 3 months, but there’s no limit as to how long a convention can go. The delegates must approve their proposed changes, and then the revised document has one more step through which to go.

Step 4: 2026 – Voters Approve or Reject the Changes to the Constitution

When the convention delegates are done, the voters still need to have their say in the process. Likely in the 2026 General Election – a full 4 years after a convention would have been approved – voters will be asked to vote “yes” or “no” on the changes made by the convention.

And here again, we don’t know how the changes will be voted on. They could be voted on individually, with each change receiving its own opportunity for voters to approve or reject it. However, if the changes are significant, it’s not clear a line-by-line vote will be possible, which could mean voters would have to consider all of the convention’s changes in a single yes-or-no vote.

Even with all of this, there’s still plenty we don’t know: how much will it cost? What will happen to our economy during the 4 years when our legal landscape is up in the air? Will the changes even be approved by the voters? Who will serve as delegates? Will the changes be good for Alaska?

A constitutional convention puts every single provision in our founding document on the table for revision. Opening it up is like opening Pandora’s box – the sheer number of potential changes possible at a convention and their impacts could create a scenario where Alaskans won’t have a clear understanding of what changes they’re voting on.

Alaskans have voted to reject a constitutional convention five times in our state’s history. The potential risk holding a convention would create for our way of life is simply not worth it. Let’s Defend Our Constitution, and make 2022 the sixth time we reject a constitutional convention.