Politics

Constitutional convention ballot measure failing by a significant margin

november, election, vote, voting, polling, polls

By a wide margin, Alaskans firmly rejected a ballot measure asking whether Alaska should hold a constitutional convention, according to preliminary election results.

Seventy percent of voters were rejecting it, with 387 of 402 precincts reporting.

The question on whether to hold a convention to draft changes to the Alaska Constitution appears on the ballot every 10 years. It has failed by a roughly 2-1 margin for decades.

But opponents and supporters of a constitutional convention said deadlock over the Permanent Fund dividend in the state Capitol had the potential to make the results closer this time.

Advocates on either side of the issue also saw a convention as a potential path to making significant changes to the Alaska Constitution, including alterations to the state’s judicial selection process, abortion protections and restrictions on funding for private and religious schools.

The opposition has been led by Defend Our Constitution, a campaign group with broad bipartisan support, including the Alaska Miners Association, the Alaska Municipal League, the Alaska Center, multiple chambers of commerce and the state’s largest union for public sector workers. The group argued a convention could open a “Pandora’s box” of potential changes to the constitution, which can also be altered through the amendment process.

Former Alaska Attorney General Bruce Botelho, chair of Defend Our Constitution, said the early results indicated that Alaskans were on track to deliver a “strong repudiation” to convention supporters, with a final conclusion possible Tuesday night if voters continued to reject the measure by such a large margin.

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“It is a suggestion that Alaskans overall are both satisfied that our fundamental document is sound, and of course it has been regarded nationally as a model constitution,” he said. “I think most Alaskans accept that view of the constitution and were not willing to take the risk that a convention might lead to fundamental alterations of that document.”

Supporters of a constitutional convention, led by conservative organizations and campaign group Convention YES, have said the measure could end political gridlock in Juneau, particularly the annual legislative debate over the size of the dividend distributed to Alaskans.

After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer, abortion supporters and opponents believed a constitutional convention was the likeliest path to change access to the procedure in the state.

Representatives for Convention YES could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Defend Our Constitution vastly outraised Convention YES, campaign records show. The Defend group spent about $4 million, including on a large television ad buy late in the campaign asserting, “It’s just too risky.”

Convention YES raised about $60,000, mostly in small contributions from individuals. It spent about $50,000, including ads on Facebook claiming that Alaska lawmakers “stole” Alaskans’ dividend by reducing the amount of the dividend paid to individuals.

Most of the funding for Defend Our Constitution came from Outside organizations, like the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which has been described as a left-wing dark money group. Several Alaska unions, concerned that a convention could lead to threats to collective bargaining, were also major donors.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or alex@adn.com.

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