State Supreme Court rejects secession vote

Justices say secession is illegal under the Alaska constitution

Posted: Monday, January 25, 2010

ANCHORAGE - The state Supreme Court has ruled against a man's effort to change the Alaska constitution so that he could call for secession from the United States.

Anchorage resident Scott Kohlhaas has attempted a couple of times since 2003 to bring a vote to Alaskans asking them if the state should break from the union. More recently, he tried to file a ballot initiative in 2007 that would have asked Alaskan residents to change the constitution and allow for such a vote.

But the efforts by the member of the Alaska Libertarian Party have been stopped by the lieutenant governor, and the state Supreme Court has twice ruled against him, saying secession is illegal under the Alaska constitution.

"Alaskans' political lives are inextricably tied to both the government of the State of Alaska and the government of the United States of America," wrote Justice Dana Fabe in the court's unanimous decision against Kohlhaas' case.

Kohlhaas, 50, said he believes Alaska would be better off as an independent nation.

"We'd be living like kings, no doubt about it," Kohlhaas told the Anchorage Daily News. "With private ownership of the land, we could have a real economy, we could have real jobs, manufacturing. I see Anchorage like a Hong Kong - free banking, free commerce, just an incredible place to live."

Although Kohlhaas realizes that Alaskans may not vote for secession, he vows to keep fighting for that vote. And he's not alone in thinking Alaska would be better off on its own.

Lynette Clark, chair of the Alaskan Independence Party, helped in Kohlhaas' effort in the 2007 initiative. A gold miner who lives outside of Fairbanks, she said the rest of the country treats Alaska "like an ugly stepchild."

"We would be very similar to what we are now: independent, kind, caring, giving, sometimes a bit grouchy and scratchy. A batch of folks that believe in taking care of the land," Clark said.

The justices didn't agree. Ballot initiatives are to propose and enact legislation. The lieutenant governor's office can reject initiatives that are illegal, Fabe said.

In the unanimous decision, Fabe quoted President Abraham Lincoln, saying, "The Union of these States is perpetual."

"We fought for years for statehood and we are doing real well. It's sort of silly arguing that we'd get more if we weren't a part of the United States," said Vic Fischer, a former Democratic legislator who was part of the state constitutional convention in the 1950s.

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