Alaska News

No secession vote for Alaska, state Supreme Court rules

The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected an Anchorage man's effort to change the Alaska Constitution so that he could call a vote for secession from the United States.

"Alaskans' political lives are inextricably tied to both the government of the State of Alaska and the government of the United States of America," wrote Justice Dana Fabe in the court's unanimous decision in Scott Kohlhaas' case.

Kohlhaas, a 50-year-old political consultant who is also chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party, wants Alaska to be its own country.

"I want independence," he said in an interview this week. "This is our land. These are our people. And we have the right to choose our own destiny."

Kohlhaas tried to bring the independence question to voters in 2003 but the lieutenant governor refused to certify his ballot initiative and Kohlhaas took the case to the courts. The Supreme Court rejected his efforts, saying at the time: "When the forty-nine star flag was first raised in Juneau, we Alaskans committed ourselves to that indestructible Union, for good or ill, in perpetuity."

Kohlhaas' 2007 effort was slightly different. It was for a ballot initiative asking voters to change existing law and Alaska Constitution provisions to authorize secession.

The Supreme Court ruled the core of both measures remains the same -- secession -- and that's still illegal.


Ballot initiatives are to propose and enact legislation. The lieutenant governor's office can refuse to certify initiatives that are clearly illegal, Fabe said.

In issuing the unanimous decision, Fabe quoted President Abraham Lincoln, saying, "The Union of these States is perpetual."

Fabe noted that the Alaska Constitution created a state government that is linked to the United States government, including a provision that disqualifies from public office anyone who advocates, or belongs to an organization that advocates, violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

But Kohlhaas insists Alaska would be better off independent.

"We'd be living like kings, no doubt about it," he said. "With private ownership of the land, we could have a real economy, we could have real jobs, manufacturing. I see Anchorage like a Hong Kong -- free banking, free commerce, just an incredible place to live."

Lynette Clark, chair of the Alaskan Independence Party, was also part of the 2007 initiative. She's a gold miner at the El Dorado Gold Mine, a tourist attraction, and lives outside Fairbanks. She said the rest of the country treats the state "like an ugly stepchild."

She can envision an Alaska divorced from the U.S. "We would be very similar to what we are now: independent, kind, caring, giving, sometimes a bit grouchy and scratchy. A batch of folks that believe in taking care of the land."

Vic Fischer, a former Democratic legislator and delegate to the state constitutional convention in the mid-1950s, said secession is just not allowed: "We fought for years for statehood and we are doing real well. It's sort of silly arguing that we'd get more if we weren't a part of the United States."

Without the help of the federal government, Alaska "would fall flat on its face," he said.

Kohlhaas says Alaskans may not vote in favor of independence -- he is realistic about that -- but he says he will continue to fight for the right.

Find Megan Holland online at or call 257-4343.


Megan Holland

Megan Holland is a former reporter for the Anchorage Daily News.