Voters OK initiative amendment

Posted: Thursday, November 04, 2004

A proposed constitutional amendment to change Alaska's ballot initiative signature-gathering process squeaked through in the end, with just over 51 percent of the state in support.

The amendment voting had been too close to call Tuesday night.

The new amendment requires initiative sponsors to collect signatures from 30 of the 40 state House districts. The signatures must equal 7 percent of the voters from the most recent general election. Until now initiative sponsors have had to collect at least one signature from 27 of the 40 districts.

"We knew it would be close," said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee, a Juneau-based organization committed to keeping the capital in Juneau. Juneau has faced six capital move attempts since statehood.

He said reforming the ballot initiative process has been one of the top priorities of the Alaska Committee. The group has argued that the new process would make it more difficult to collect enough signatures to approve a capital move ballot initiative.

Opponents have argued that the change would stifle direct Democracy. Gruening said he thought the constitutional amendment might have been helped by a controversial initiative proposal this year to legalize possession and use of marijuana.

"I think people thought that was out of line," Gruening said. "It probably shouldn't have been on the ballot and it might have been prevented if the process had needed a minimal measure of statewide support."

The marijuana measure failed Tuesday 57 percent to 43 percent.

Gruening said Alaska is one of 24 states that allows citizen initiatives. He said it is one of the most liberal initiative processes.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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