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Alaskans say no to constitutional convention

Lori Townsend
Alaska Public Media
A copy of the Alaska constitution at Vic Fischer’s home. Fischer is the last surviving delegate from the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention.

Alaskans have overwhelmingly said no to holding a constitutional convention.

With nearly all precincts reporting, voters opposed the convention by more than 2-1, according to election results. About 70% of voters said no to a convention while about 30% said yes. The Division of Elections will be tallying absentee and overseas ballots for several more days before results are expected to be certified on Nov. 29.

Matt Shuckerow, a spokesman for Defend Our Constitution, the leading no group, said he was encouraged by the results.

“I think it’s a very strong showing of Alaskans,” he said. “And at the end of the day, when we really lifted the veil on what this actual question was, Alaskans truly began to understand what a constitutional convention meant and that there were inherent risks associated with this process.”

The question on this year’s ballot was, “Shall there be a constitutional convention?” The question goes before Alaska voters every 10 years. In a convention, Alaskans would have the opportunity to elect delegates who would deliberate on potential changes to any part of the state constitution.

In most years, the question has been soundly defeated — in 2012, two-thirds of Alaska voters voted no. Polling this year showed it could have been a closer race.

Opponents of a constitutional convention, like Shuckerow, argue that it’s too risky to open the entire constitution to changes. They say a convention would be a lengthy, expensive process that could hurt business and opportunity in the state.

Proponents of a constitutional convention have said it would be a chance to constitutionally guarantee a PFD, expand school choice and limit abortion rights. Those proponents include Alaskan Independence Party chairman Bob Bird.

After seeing the results Tuesday night, Bird said he was outspent by the “no” side and that was difficult to overcome.

“We all gave it our best shot,” he said. “That’s all anybody can do.”

This story is from Alaska Public Media, our partner station in Anchorage.

Kavitha George is the host of Alaska Morning News at Alaska Public Media. She also reports on business, labor and the economy. Reach her at kgeorge@alaskapublic.org.