Constitutional convention opposers make case against Ballot Measure 1

Joelle Hall with the No on 1 campaign says approving the convention would open up Pandora’s box
Voters will decide at the ballot box whether to approve a review of the Alaska Constitution. something decided every 10 years, though never enacted.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 3:30 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The decision on whether to approve a review of Alaska’s constitution is the only ballot measure before Alaska voters this year.

Voters will decide at the ballot box whether to approve a review of the Alaska Constitution. The decision about whether to approve a constitutional convention is presented to voters every 10 years but has never been enacted. This year, both sides expect a tight vote, which is why they’ve been gearing up for a battle at the ballot box.

Those opposed to the convention are against having a complete review or rewrite of the state’s constitution, saying it would be like opening up Pandora’s box. Joelle Hall is the co-chair of the No on 1 campaign, which is asking Alaskan voters to reject a constitutional convention. Hall feels the vote has become more contentious this time around.

“I think it’s more of an issue this year because it is true, people are frustrated with how things are going,” Hall said.

Since Alaska’s constitution was adopted in 1956, it has never been subjected to a complete rewrite. Hall feels it’s safer to keep it that way. She would rather see items amended individually by voters than to have a wholesale rewrite of the state’s constitution.

“The Alaska Constitution includes an amendment process, which has been tried 60 times. We’ve successfully amended our constitution 28 times, “Hall says. “That amendment process is a high bar. We believe that having a high bar to amend your constitution is actually not a bad thing. It requires a two-thirds vote of both bodies of the Legislature and an affirmative vote of the people.”

Hall believes women have a right to choose and feels Alaska’s existing constitution adequately defends personal liberties, including abortion rights. However, she does feel there’s room for improvement when it comes to the state’s relationship with the federal government.

“I don’t think it’s broken to the point where we have to like fundamentally change the constitution, but we should have this healthy dialogue, where we are looking about how to manage the fish and game on their land. How do we develop on their land? What are we going to do to boost our economy,” Hall said. “We are a resource state, right, lots of different types of resources. And so it is true that we need to constantly keep that pressure so that we can keep developing on state land, private land and federal land.”

Hall says voting yes to the convention will say no to any potential investors who may be considering doing business in Alaska.

“We have rules of the road right now, which allow industry to thrive in this state. If you throw the question of what are the rules of the road, open, and nobody knows what they are for six years, you’re not inviting more investment,” Hall said. “You’re inviting people to be like, ‘wow, these people cannot figure out what they want to be when they grow up. We’re gonna go spend our money elsewhere.’”

Hall goes on to say that voting yes to the convention would be extremely expensive and could tie the Alaska Constitution up in the court system for years — even decades — while both legislators and voters hammer out whatever changes will be made. Even if the yes vote was to pass and a convention convened, voters would still have to make the final approval of any recommended changes.

Documents filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission for the most recent reporting period show the no campaign raised over $1.4 million, while the main organization supporting the yes campaign raised a fraction of that amount at just over $21,000. The fundraising total reported to APOC for the campaign opposing a constitutional convention is over 66 times what the campaign supporting a convention has raised.