Constitutional convention is dangerous and unnecessary

Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The League of Women Voters of Alaska urges Alaskans to vote "No" on Ballot Measure No. 1: "Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?"

The Constitution of the state of Alaska requires that this question automatically be placed on the general election ballot if there has not been a constitutional convention held within a 10-year period. Alaska's Constitution is a flexible and concise document that has functioned well since it was written. It includes mechanisms to make changes the voters may feel are necessary without a full-scale constitutional convention.

The league believes that holding a constitutional convention at this time would be dangerous, expensive and unnecessary.

Dangerous: If people vote "Yes" to call a constitutional convention, the entire Alaska Constitution would be open for change. The convention could be divisive and slanted toward special interests, rather than the good of the general public.

The Legislature would set out the ground rules for election of delegates to the convention. People living in the rural areas of the state would likely be underrepresented, lessening the chance that their needs and concerns will be considered.

Expensive: When the voters defeated the constitutional convention ballot measure in 1992, the cost estimate was $50,000 per day. With our current "budget gap" can we afford the cost? Are there more pressing needs for which our scarce dollars could be used? When we can't even afford basic services in some parts of Alaska, we certainly should not spend scarce funds on a convention with no clear purpose.

Unnecessary: Although there are criticisms of government in Alaska, the problems are not with the Constitution, but with how it is implemented. While certain issues prompt intense public interest, calling a constitutional convention, which runs the risk of altering the basic framework of government, is not the best way to address these issues.

The league supports the amendment process for any needed changes. The amendment process has worked more than 30 times during the life of the Alaska Constitution, and it can continue to work in the future. In this way the people have an opportunity to address specific issues rather than risk opening up the entire Constitution for major changes.

Let us not run the risk of unnecessary changes to Alaska's model constitution that no doubt would be proposed if a constitution convention were held. Vote "No" on Ballot Measure No. 1 on Nov. 5.

Cheryl Jebe, President

League of Women Voters of Alaska


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