In preparation for voting on the question of a constitutional convention on your general election ballot, we are providing “cliff notes” on the details of how a convention works, each day, for the next three days.
Article XIII, §3, of the Alaska Constitution provides that if there has been no constitutional convention held during the previous ten years, the Lieutenant Governor (LG) shall put on the ballot for the next statewide election the question “Shall there be a constitutional convention?”
If at the next statewide election, a majority of those voting say “no,” then there will be no need to put the question back on the ballot for another ten years.
If the majority of those voting, say “yes,” the LG sets in motion the process of selecting the delegates and “issuing the call” for the convention.
The constitution states that the delegates to the constitutional convention shall be chosen at the next statewide election, “unless the legislature provides for the delegates to be chosen at a special election.”
- To date, the legislature has not said anything about a special election to choose delegates to a constitutional convention.
- AS 15. 50.090, the statute enacted to carry out this constitutional section, states that the delegates to the constitutional convention, shall be elected at the “next statewide general election,” i.e., not at a primary election.
- If a constitutional convention were approved in 2022, the delegates would be elected in November 2024.
ISSUING THE CALL
This constitution section also provides that the LG “call” “shall conform as nearly as possible to the act calling the Alaska Constitutional Convention of 1955.”
This call sets up the procedure for election of the delegates to the convention.
- The call would include “number of members, districts, election and certification of delegates, . . .”
- This section also qualifies this procedure by adding “unless the legislature provides otherwise.”
- To date, the legislature has said only that if there is a majority of votes calling for the convention, “the lieutenant governor shall so certify and shall issue the call for the convention.”
- The grammar of the language in the constitution implies that any legislative change to the procedure must have preceded the LG’s call, not followed it.
- According to the same § 3, the LG’s “call” shall also set out the amount of money to be spent on the convention and shall be “self-executing.” In other words, the LG’s designation operates as an appropriation just as if the legislature had passed it and the governor signed it.
- The legislature can’t hamper the convention by preventing it from being fully funded.
POWERS OF A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
§4 of Article XIII specifies that the constitutional convention “shall have plenary power to amend or revise the constitution, subject only to ratification by the people.”
- This means that the convention has the power to propose changing anything and everything in the constitution.
- It means that the constitution isn’t actually amended unless and until the people vote on and approve any specific proposed amendment.
- At the conclusion of the constitutional convention, the president of the convention shall certify to the LG each proposed amendment adopted by the convention. AS §15.50.100.
TOMORROW: Preparing a Ballot for Constitutional Amendments