Alaskans have been asking for justice from our judicial system for a long time. Too many Alaskans see the law applied to protect those with money and power but not those without. The simple truth is that Alaskans need a greater say in selecting judges to break the cycle of injustice in our communities. Improving our judiciary can only happen with a constitutional amendment to reform Article 4, Section 8 of our State Constitution which currently empowers four Alaskans on the Judicial Council to create a list of lawyers from which the governor must choose a judicial appointment.

The issue of justice reform unites Alaskans from rural villages and urban centers alike. It also energizes out-of-state interests determined to protect the status quo, which is why there is so much dark money being spent on a no vote on a Constitutional Convention this year.

Alaskans have the authority to demand a constitutional amendment, but Alaskans only have the power to secure one through a Constitutional Convention. Here’s why: A constitutional amendment is passed with a simple majority vote during a Constitutional Convention. The Legislature can also pass constitutional amendments but that requires a 2/3 majority vote to do so. This super-majority vote is an impossible hurdle to overcome given the makeup of our Legislature. The drafters of our state constitution foresaw times like this when they included the provision for the people to decide once a decade whether to call a Constitutional Convention or not. The purpose of the convention is to bypass a dysfunctional Legislature and enable Alaskans to create their own constitutional amendments.

The question isn’t “Will it get worse?” The question is “Will it get any better if we don’t?”

For decades, justice in our villages has been elusive for too many Native Alaskans. For decades Alaskan businesses have been asking for an effective spending limit. For decades Alaskans have been asking for the Legislature to be relocated from Juneau, including a successful ballot initiative. For decades, the permanent fund dividend program worked for Alaskans and now it has been ruled unconstitutional by the judiciary and ignored by the Legislature. For decades, our government has ignored Alaskans’ pleas for action, and these important issues have continually been allowed to divide us.

If Alaskans want to stop being divided, ordinary Alaskans need to say yes to a Constitutional Convention and start working together to solve our problems.

A false choice is presented between no Constitutional Convention and instead, successfully solving our problems under the status quo. History proves that our government will not act to correct itself. The question isn’t, “Can things get worse with a Constitutional Convention?” Things have been worse for too long! The question is, “Can things get better without a Constitutional Convention? Do you trust your government to correct itself?”

The necessity of a Constitutional Convention is a matter of how serious we are about the rule of law. If we want justice, Alaskans must have the courage to exercise the constitutional authority the state’s framers included in our state constitution by voting yes for a Constitutional Convention.

If justice can’t be secured in a Constitutional Convention, we can’t preserve it in the Legislature.

 The question isn’t “Will it get worse?” The question is “Will it get any better if we don’t?”

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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Rep. Carpenter: Alaskans must summon the courage to exercise our constitutional authority

Ben Carpenter
Ben Carpenter has called Alaska home for more than 35 years. He is honored to represent the people living on the northern Kenai Peninsula in the Alaska House of Representatives where he champions fiscally conservative spending policies , protection of Alaskan families and individual liberties, and a return of respect to the legislature through increased trust and transparency amongst legislators.


  • Neil DeWitt says:

    This is a good article. If all Alaskans could remember ten years ago we had some very important issues that a lot of people wanted to vote for a Con-Con. Only they didn’t get it. I don’t remember what the issues were but I remember the people were all heated up over it. We all said the next time we’re going to be sure to have a Con-Con. Well here we are 10 years later. Are we going to let the outside dark money keep us down again or are we going to fight them and VOTE YES on ballot issue number 1. We can look back and see what our issues were 10 years ago and work them out too. It’s our only way to fix the judges, abortion, the PFD and all other items that Bill Walker screwed Alaskans out of. Two things on November ballot; one, vote yes for ballot measure #1; second, don’t vote Walker back into office to screw us again. Our money was still in an account, but Dunleavy did get some of it and tried to get it all back for us. We still have some coming. You will never get it if Walker/Drygas get voted in. They’ll spend the whole PFD, and you’ll get nothing. Think about what’s really important. vote yes and Dunleavy…

  • Kasey says:

    The fact is…that other states have held numerous state con cons over the years. It’s the normative process of the people of a state. I find it alarming that so-called ‘dark money’ and people like George Soros would care so much about a state he doesn’t live in, he would seek to influence voters…let alone Alaska with such little power on the grand scale of things. What’s behind it all??? VERY suspicious.

  • Andy says:

    It is a broken system rife with corruption from the top down and the only way to stop it is voting yes on the constitutional convention.

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    Informative article Mr. Carpenter, thank you! Neil, it is too bad that our state has not seen a constitutional convention – it sure would help for people to understand the process. The dark money has unknowing people believing that, somehow, changes will just be made without people being able to vote on it and that is not true. We need a constitutional convention to break the dark money’s grip on this state – everyone needs help…not just the “conservative right”. Vote YES on a constitutional convention.

  • Lauralee says:

    Mr. Carpenter, I don’t think the Legislature can pass a constitutional amendment on its own. If I’m not mistaken, the process is this: The Legislature may, with 2/3 majority, adopt a resolution that contains the language of a PROPOSED constitutional amendment. If adopted by the Legislature, then the language contained in the resolution goes on the ballot, and the voters approve or reject it. I bring this up because the distinction is significant. The process of the Legislature’s adoption plus the voters’ adoption sets an even higher bar than what you’ve described. This should be part of the voters’ consciousness when they cast their ballots. Thank you for a thoughtful article that offers good perspective.