State convention coming to area

Election issues to be debated

Posted: Thursday, April 04, 2002

Area voters will have a chance to educate themselves about issues in the upcoming election this weekend.

The League of Women Voters, Central Peninsula Chapter, will host the state of Alaska League of Women Voters 2002 Convention Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Kenai River Center. Anyone interested in attending the convention can do so by calling Joan Schrader, publicity chair for the League, at 283-4359, or by registering at the convention events. The registration fee is $55, which includes all activities and meals.

A state League board meeting will begin the convention Friday night. The main part of the convention will begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Kenai River Center. Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey will start the day with a welcoming address. After the address, convention participants will attend work sessions until lunch.

A debate about a state constitutional convention will be held at noon Saturday at the Kenai River Center. John Havelock, former attorney general and a constitutional lawyer, will speak in favor of a convention, and Gerald McBeath, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, will speak against holding one.

Every 10 years the state of Alaska is required to decide whether it wants to hold a constitutional convention, which would open the state constitution to revision, outside of the usual amendment process. The issue will be voted on again in November.

The League's mission is to provide factual information on the structure and function of government, voting procedures and election issues to voters. The constitutional convention debate was arranged under this mission. The League itself opposes holding a constitutional convention but has arranged an objective debate to inform voters on both sides of the issue, said Diana McKenney, state president of the League of Women Voters.

"The most important thing that we have geared for the public (during the League convention) is to provide information about the (constitutional) convention," McKenney said. "It's really an important issue that we face, and it's coming up in November. The League strongly encourages people to start doing their homework."

Work sessions will resume after the debate and convention events will wrap up for the night with a dinner, during which Kenai Peninsula Borough Clerk Linda Murphy will speak about redistricting. On Sunday, there will be more work sessions and the convention will close with a no-host dinner at the Riverside House.

The work sessions give League members an opportunity to set their agenda for the year. Members will discuss what issues and topics the League should focus on during the year, then those ideas will be voted on by state League chapters, publicity chair Schrader said.

According to McKenney, convention participants will discuss how the League should achieve its goal of educating voters during the year, how it should implement its national voter's education Web site -- www.dnet.com -- on a state level, and how it should approach the issue of preferential voting, which will appear on the primary ballot in August.

Although the convention is designed for the League to conduct its yearly business matters, it is open to non-League members, and the general public is encouraged to attend the constitutional convention debate.

"I'd say the constitutional convention forum is really a good place to go and get a feel for how the League operates," McKenney said.

For more information about the convention or to register for it, call 283-4359.



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