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“Defend Our Constitution” group formed to oppose constitutional convention

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 4:58 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The organization “Defend Our Constitution” was established in 2021 with the mission to urge Alaskans to vote “No” on a constitutional convention, which will appear on the ballot in this year’s November elections.

“It’s something that our founders put in the constitution. Every ten years, they’ll ask the question: ‘Shall we have a constitutional convention?’” said former State Senator John Coghill.

The group includes politicians from the Alaskan Interior, including Coghill and former Fairbanks North Star Borough mayor Luke Hopkins. “There’s just a broad range. Republicans, Democrats, Independents,” Coghill said.

Since achieving statehood, Alaska has not held a constitutional convention. Instead, changes over the years have come through constitutional amendments. “Every year in the legislature, there is a battle over a dozen different constitutional measures to change our constitution,” Coghill explained.

However, these amendments are difficult to pass in the legislature. According to Coghill, “You have to have two-thirds of the body agree to pass it on to the citizens of Alaska.”

Even then, sometimes the voters turn a proposed amendment down in the ballot booth; but a constitutional convention can potentially bypass these obstacles.

In December, State Senator Mike Shower posted on Facebook in support of a convention to solve issues with the Permanent Fund Dividend.

Alaskan Independence Party chair Bob Bird has also written about the possibilities from a convention.

Coghill, on the other hand, views the constitution as an alternative to direct democracy, in which citizens vote on every issue. “Your vote is assigned to a representative, so we have a representative democracy. That is we the people, and so that is how we’ve chosen to be.”

He thinks the current political climate is not good for a constitutional convention. “It would be, who could throw the most money at it, who could get the bumper sticker approaches to it, and people who can be moved emotionally rather than thoughtfully.”

However, Coghill recommends that Alaskans research the issue themselves. “It’s wise for everybody to look at the pros and cons of it. It’s your decision. It’s your constitution. It’s your state,” he said.

In response to an inquiry, Governor Mike Dunleavy’s office indicated that he remains neutral on the issue of whether to call a constitutional convention.

This year’s General Election will be held on November 8th.

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