Voters again asked about a Constitutional Convention

Posted: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Voters again on Nov. 5 will be asked this question: ''Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?''

As required by the original framers of the Alaska Constitution, the question has appeared every 10 years on the ballot, and each time voters have said no except in 1970 when it was approved by a narrow margin. That decision was later nullified by the Alaska Supreme Court because of what was determined to be misleading ballot wording.

Since 1972, the question has been asked the same way, and each time voters have turned down the opportunity to amend or revise the Alaska Constitution, said Virginia Breeze, spokeswoman for the Division of Election.

The Legislature can call a Constitutional Convention at any time. But if during any 10-year period one is not held, the lieutenant governor is required to place the question on the ballot to be decided by voters in the next general election.

''There has never been a Constitutional Convention since the original one,'' Breeze said.

Former Attorney General John Havelock is pushing to reverse that trend. He says he would like to see the state constitution amended to, among other things, protect the Permanent Fund dividend and provide for better representation of Alaska Natives.

But original Constitutional Convention delegate Jack Coghill, 77, said he doesn't think changes are needed.

''I think that the reach that we have within the Constitution seems to satisfy everybody,'' he said. ''I think by and large people are satisfied with the blue print of our state government and I don't think it needs to be tampered with. I think we should go along for another 10 years.''

Coghill, a former state legislator and lieutenant governor, was one of 55 delegates who met for 75 days beginning Nov. 19, 1955, to work on the Alaska Constitution. He said delegates met for 50 days, took a break over the Christmas holiday, and then held hearings before reconvening and finishing up.

''It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work,'' he said. ''I think everybody was excited about putting our stamp, our Alaska stamp, on what our Constitution would be all about instead of allowing Washington, D.C., to make the blue print.''

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