Editor’s Introduction: I am interested in defending and reforming the institution of the state constitutional convention. This includes defending the institution when I feel it is being unfairly attacked, which is often. The FAQ below responds to widely publicized attacks on the institution. Senator Shelley Hughes has taken many of these points and presented them more effectively than I have in her YouTube video posted below.

–J.H. Snider, Editor, Alaska State Constitutional Convention Clearinghouse

FAQ Template


Fact Claim
A discussion of the controversial assumptions behind the claimed fact. The claimed fact attacking the institution of the periodic constitutional convention referendum
State constitutional conventions are bad


Fact Claim

Notable historians of democracy have viewed America’s creation of the independent constitutional convention as one of its greatest contributions to the development of democracy worldwide.  Many eminent political theorists have also endorsed it as a vital institution to prevent a legislature from having gatekeeping power over constitutional change. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, using an independently elected constitutional convention to propose constitutional changes has become more popular worldwide than ever before. By “independent” in this context is meant not controlled by the legislature.

Some constitutional scholars have described the value of a periodic constitutional convention referendum as analogous to a “periodic medical checkup.” You hire a doctor (a convention) to check for problems that you may not even know exist, although you might have sensed that your body is not working as it should (a majority of Americans think their government is dysfunctional but disagree about the cause). And you hire a doctor rather than a medical products vendor (the legislature) because the medical products vendor has a blatant conflict of interest when diagnosing a medical problem and suggesting a specific remedy. If a doctor then finds a problem and recommends a remedy, it’s still up to the patient (the voters voting via a referendum) to decide whether to accept the proposed remedy. Note that the word “constitution” in a political sense was originally derived from the notion of the “body politic,” including the notion that each human body has a particular constitution. This makes the medical analogy especially apt.



This is a Pandora’s Box pure and simple.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.



A constitutional convention would cost $17 million


Fact Claim

The $17 million figure is based on a calculation made by Alaska State Senator Gary Stevens, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, in a white paper privately distributed to convention opponents in September 2021.

The $17 million figure is based on comparable costs for the Alaska state legislature to meet for 165 days. Alaska’s 1955-6 convention met for 75 days. The state legislature also has costs for facilities, security, and other charges that were not billed to the 1955-6 convention. That’s partly because the University of Alaska at Fairbanks donated meeting facilities for the convention. Conventions in other states often meet in the state capitol using existing government facilities, so the decision whether to bill them for the space and supporting services largely depends on whether the legislature wants or doesn’t want a convention (legislatures typically like statehood conventions, which grant them more power, and hate all subsequent conventions, which are viewed as a threat to their power). Of the $17 million estimate for a 165-day convention, only $3,923,881 (23%) is allocated to delegate salaries and per diem expenses.

Another method for estimating the cost of a convention is based on the cost of a previous convention rather than the cost of the current legislature. Using this basic method, multiple approaches that can be taken.

One approach is to calculate the estimated cost of a future convention based on extrapolating from the cost of the 1955-6 convention and then adjusting for inflation.

In 1955, Alaska’s legislature budgeted $300,000 for its statehood constitutional convention. Adjusted for inflation as of November 2021, the $300,000 figure increases to $3,065,602.94—only 18% of the Defend Our Constitution figure.

Another approach is to adjust the costs based on the relative per capita financial burden to Alaskans of 1955-6 vs. today.

Alaska’s population in 1955 was an estimated 222,000 whereas in 2021 it was estimated at 734,323 or 3.34 times as many. Dividing the $3,065,602.94 cost figure above to adjust for Alaska’s population growth, we get a normalized figure of $917,845–only 5.4% of the Defend Our Constitution figure.

Alaska’s per capita income in 1955 was $2,886 (equivalent to $29,398.76 in July 2021 dollars) where in 2021 it was $67,138 or 2.28 times as much. Dividing the $917,845 cost figure above to adjust for Alaska’s increase in wealth, and we get a normalized figure of $402,564–only 2.4% of the Defend Our Constitution figure.

Another approach is to adjust for statehood vs. non-statehood conventions, as statehood constitutional conventions are often more expensive than subsequent conventions because they must draft a constitution from scratch as opposed to, say, use a convention to insert an amendment to protect the Permanent Fund Dividend.

New Hampshire illustrates the difference between using a convention to propose a new constitution (e.g., a statehood constitution written from scratch) and using a convention to propose one or more amendments to an existing constitution. New Hampshire has the second oldest constitution in the world and has held thirteen constitutional conventions since 1792. Each of those thirteen conventions was used merely to propose amendments to its existing constitution; some only lasted a few days.

Any cost estimate for a convention should note the huge variability in the cost of America’s 235 state conventions. And even Alaska’s 1955-6 convention was wildly expensive compared to the cost of many 19th Century U.S. state constitutional conventions. For example, under the Northwest Ordinance, dirt-poor U.S. territories could hold constitutional conventions to enter the Union with as few as 60,000 residents—only about a fourth as many as Alaska had in 1955-6.

To be sure, the estimated costs provided by convention opponents cannot be disproven because they are estimates based on future events.  Just like the cost of a future legislature could in theory be anything (e.g., special sessions, which Alaska’s legislature has often convened, can add substantial additional expense), so could the cost of a convention.

A Constitutional Convention would cost Alaska taxpayers an estimated $17 million dollars, and that number may be low.

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/faqs/

The convention itself is expected to cost at least $17 million dollars.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.


The Legislature Can Propose The Same Amendments At Less Cost to Taxpayers


Fact Claim

There is an old saying that “you get what you pay for.” The same applies to democratic accountability mechanisms. The least expensive form of government is a dictatorship, where one person makes all the decisions and no money is “wasted” on elections and other democratic mechanisms. For example, American states pay for large legislatures—usually two largely redundant ones (a house and a senate) —that follow a slow and expensive democratic due process and are subject to judicial review and executive branch veto. We pay these extra costs because we believe that they are an investment in democratic accountability and thus effective government.

Convention opponents are correct that a convention (like a legislature) has unlimited power to propose as many constitutional amendments as it wants, providing they don’t conflict with federal law. But one cannot infer from that that the periodic constitutional convention referendum doesn’t serve a unique and highly valuable democratic function, which is that it is the only mechanism in Alaska’s constitution that allows the people (the constituent power) to bypass the legislature’s monopoly power over constitutional proposals that might influence its own power. Classic examples of such conflicts with the people’s interest include reforms that lower barriers to political competition, that increase the power of competing branches of government, and that decrease the power of the most powerful special interests that helped get them elected and that, by definition, excel at influencing the legislature and thus constitute part of each incumbent legislator’s political base.  Perhaps the most publicized example of such a conflict is legislative gerrymandering, which comes to the fore as an issue once per decade because the U.S. constitution mandates legislative reapportionment after the decennial census is taken.

Convention opponents are also correct that bypassing the legislature often costs a premium because a legislature already exists, whereas a convention must be created from scratch. But these costs can also be an investment, not merely a cost, because of the valuable, democracy enhancing benefits of using a convention rather than the legislature for making some types of constitutional changes. There is a reason, for example, why Congress mandates that all U.S. territories undergo the additional expense of calling a convention if they want to become a state, and why some state constitutions, including Alaska, mandate the additional expense of a convention for making amendments concerning more than a single subject. The explanation is that the convention process is viewed as the gold standard for democratic deliberation and accountability; in contrast, legislature- and initiative-based amendment processes may only be allowed for relatively minor amendments because of their greater affordability but not trusted for changes requiring a higher standard of democratic accountability that does not come cost-free.

Americans routinely tell pollsters that they believe that 30% to 40% of state government expenditures are wasted. Assuming that Alaskans have similar views and that a convention would reduce waste by some amount, then a convention even at a $17 million price tag could look like a very good deal. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alaska’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $12.7 billion in FY 2020 (the most recent year census data are available as of Sept. 2022). This comes to $127 billion over a ten-year period, the period of Alaska’s periodic constitutional convention referendum. Using 30% as the figure for the public perception of state government waste, that comes to $38.1 billion in waste. Let’s assume that a convention could reduce this government waste by 1%. That would come to 381 million. If a convention cost $17 million, as opponents claim, that would to a 22.4 (2,240%) return on the investment in a convention.

 If parts of Alaska’s Constitution are outdated, the amendment process is a much better mechanism for change, and one that Alaskans have already used more than 40 times. 

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/faqs/

Alaska doesn’t need an expensive convention when an amendment will do.

Source: Editorial: No to convention, Ketchikan Daily News, Sept. 12, 2022.

The convention is unnecessary because we have a functioning amendment process that has resulted in 28 amendments.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.

A constitutional convention is too risky


Fact Claim

The most common framing of this argument is that a convention would open up a Pandora’s Box because it would have unlimited power to change the constitution.

But Alaska’s constitution allows BOTH the legislature and a constitutional convention to propose amendments on any subject matter. Alaska’s Framers granted conventions the same proposal power as the legislature because the legislature has a conflict of interest when proposing amendments concerning its own power. Allowing the legislature to limit a convention’s agenda would thus defeat the purpose of a constitutional convention, which is to bypass the legislature.

However, unlimited does not mean unaccountable. The Framers granted ratification power to neither the legislature nor a convention; they granted it to the people via a statewide referendum. All a convention or legislature was allowed to do was propose, not pass, constitutional amendments.

It is also noteworthy that any federal law, including constitutional, statutory, or regulatory, trumps state constitutional law. So, for example, the federal bill of rights cannot be negated by a state constitutional convention.

Based on the “unlimited” criterion convention opponents use, the judiciary is arguably the riskiest source of constitutional law because, unlike a legislature or convention, its interpretation of a constitution is not subject to public approval. As former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said a few years before being appointed to the court: “the Constitution is what the judges [five of nine] say it is.” Similarly, former President Woodrow Wilson said that the U.S. Supreme Court was a sitting “constitutional convention.” But he was wrong in the sense that a convention can only propose laws whereas a supreme court has the final say on what a law is.

The key takeaway from the judiciary’s far greater formal power over constitutional reform than either a legislature or convention is that formal and actual proposal power may be very different concepts.  Both legislatures and conventions would be stupid to propose reforms the people won’t approve. And a supreme court has neither the power of the sword nor purse; its power of enforcement lies in its legitimacy, which it would squander if it abused its power.

A vivid example of how incremental and protective of people’s rights state constitutional convention proposals tend to be is New Hampshire.  New Hampshire has the second oldest constitution in the world yet has had more state constitutional conventions, 17, than any other state, including ten in the 20th Century. Except for its earliest conventions in the 18th Century, it has used conventions to modify, not rewrite, its constitution. And the values reflected in its state motto, “live free or die,” are reflected in the amendments protecting the people’s rights that those many conventions have passed.


Make no mistake, at such a convention, anything and everything would be up for grabs, complete with big money, high-power ad campaigns and arm-twisting that quickly would devolve into something akin to the devil’s playground…. Anything could happen. Anything….

Source: Jenkins, Paul, A constitutional convention is a terrible idea for Alaska, Anchorage Daily News, Sept. 10, 2021.

Here in Alaska, we face the looming prospect of a constitutional convention which, if held, could put at risk the freedom and independence that is the hallmark of life in Alaska.


Franks, Lyn, Oppose Constitutional Convention, Anchorage Daily News, May 4, 2022.




Convention opponents are bipartisan and thus acting in the public interest


Fact Claim

It is true that convention opponents tend to have a bipartisan mix of coalition allies. These opponents can be categorized into four different groups.

Incumbent Legislators: Conventions are a legislative bypass mechanism so incumbent legislators overwhelmingly oppose them regardless of political party.

Apex Special Interest Groups: Apex special interest groups are defined as the most influential special interest groups in a given legislature.  They oppose conventions because, by definition, they excel at influencing the legislature. They also often form the base of either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Secondary Interest Groups: secondary interest groups depend on you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-scratch-your back coalitions with incumber legislators and apex special interest groups to effectively pursue their core missions. That is, they will support convention opponents if in return those opponents will support the secondary interest group’s mission.

Groups Favoring Judicial Control: Some groups, especially those favoring unpopular minority interests, such as felons’ rights, prefer to exercise political power via the judiciary versus via the legislature or a convention.

However, bipartisan doesn’t mean in the public interest if bipartisan elites form an alliance adverse to the interests of the general public. Political scientists often speak of cartels among the major political parties, and convention opposition is a vivid illustration of such a cartel in action

This growing [bipartisan]coalition represents Alaskans from all walks of life. We are your neighbors, small business owners, advocates, and leaders from across the political and geographic spectrum. Our coalition looked past our policy and political differences to come together around a single issue–– the belief that a Constitutional Convention is not the answer to Alaska’s many challenges.

Source: “Bipartisan Coalition Features More Than 150 Alaskans from Diverse Geographic and Political Backgrounds,” Defend Our Constitution Press Release, April 7, 2022.

Groups from across Alaska are coming together to oppose a constitutional convention. This momentum reflects a growing bipartisan concern about the inherent risks associated with holding a constitutional convention, and the unintended consequences that could result from opening up Alaska’s entire constitution to unlimited revision.

Source: Diverse Group of Alaska Organizations Publicly Oppose Constitutional Convention, Defend Our Constitution Press Release, Sept. 8, 2022.

Alaska already has a model constitution


Fact Claim

One of the most common political arguments used by constitutional convention opponents is to claim that the state already has a model constitution thanks to the delegates at the state’s last constitutional convention—the so-called framers—who were wiser and more public spirited than today’s framers would likely be. Thus, another convention should not occur because, in comparison to the state legislature, the convention is a costly uncontrollable mechanism to propose constitutional amendments. This creates a paradox: if the framers were so wise and public spirited, why did they include a periodic constitutional convention referendum in the constitution? Why would they include a constitutional change mechanism that their champions claim is so harmful to democracy, including the people’s most important rights?

Political insiders have always treated constitutions as sacred documents because it is what gives their power political legitimacy. This includes the constitutional conventions that created those documents. The most recent example is Montana, which in 2022 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its “model” 1972 constitution. This included the conventional (and government supported) public TV hagiography of the convention followed by a series of commemorative events and dozens of newspaper articles applauding the wise and statesmanlike framers and the people who elected them and approved their handiwork.  Yes, the Montana constitution is probably much more of a “model” than the Alaska Constitution. But 1972 was no Golden Age.

Thomas Jefferson may have said it best in a quote featured in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC:

I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions. But laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.



[Our Alaska Constitution] is considered a model and the looked up to by other states. Some say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it….

Source: Corbus, Bill, A constitutional convention is fraught with danger for Juneau, Southeast and Alaska as a whole, Juneau Empire, Dec. 20, 2021.


A convention would be dominated by the legislature


Fact Claim

Convention opponents argue that a convention would be dominated by incumbent legislators so would have the same conflicts of interest as the legislature. While it is true that a legislature will do everything it can to control a convention’s agenda and has more power in this regard than it should have, there is a reason incumbent legislators from both leading political party so strongly oppose calling state constitutional conventions with independently elected delegates. That’s because they recognize it as a genuine threat to their gatekeeping power over constitutional amendment.

In three of the fourteen states with the periodic constitutional convention referendum, incumbent legislators are banned from running as convention delegates. And even when incumbent legislators are allowed and do run for delegate, most voters won’t vote for them, perhaps reflecting the view that incumbent legislators have a conflict of interest when designing their own powers. As a result, incumbent legislators who aren’t retiring from the legislature are hesitant to run. It is also usually impractical for incumbent legislators at the same election to run for both their legislative seat and seek a new convention seat.

As convention opponents often observe, nine of the fifty-five delegates at Alaska’s 1955-6 convention (16%)  were incumbent legislators. But some context should be added to this figure.

First, according to constitutional theory, there is a huge difference whether the incumbents are lame ducks or running for re-election. In our constitutional system based on checks & balances, plural office holding among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches is universally banned. For example, legislators cannot simultaneously serve in the executive branch. But if they are holding only one office at once, there is no legal problem. So it’s a crucial distinction and one especially important for conventions, where a critical design parameter of higher lawmaking is that constituted powers (e.g., sitting legislators) shouldn’t be in charge of designing their own powers, which is why the people have a special role in higher lawmaking, especially constitutional conventions. Unfortunately, the literature on the Alaska delegates elected in 1955 doesn’t distinguish whether the incumbent legislators were or weren’t lame duck legislators.  It should also be noted that the same checks & balance logic covers non-incumbent lawmakers serving at a convention. If they are FORMER lawmakers, the plurality/checks & balances principle doesn’t apply to them. On the other hand, one state extends the plurality principle to all state government workers, not just legislators.

Second, statehood and post-statehood conventions tend to be quite different in their politics. Statehood conventions are lovefests among legislators because statehood convention promise a power grab for them. In contrast, legislatures as a whole hate non-statehood conventions because the tables are reversed and now a convention functions to primarily bypass them, not Congress. The public senses this difference in incentives and thus is more disposed to reject incumbent legislators who run for delegates. Yet, as noted above, even for Alaska’s statehood convention only 16% of the delegates were either lame duck or non-lame duck incumbent legislators.

Third, Alaska’s organic act prior to statehood extended the ban on plural office holding to convention delegates—a ban that was then upheld in federal court. But statehood advocates within Alaska’s legislature got Congress to overturn the ban so they could run as delegates for Alaska’s statehood convention. Thus, opponents are right that non lame duck incumbent legislators can run for delegate. But there are many types of people that are allowed to run for office that won’t win even if they do run. The question, then, is not whether non lame duck incumbent legislators are allowed to run for delegate but whether voters will elect them if they do.


 Sitting members of the Alaska Legislature could run as delegate candidates and have good chances of winning given their name recognition.

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/faqs/

It doesn’t seem likely that a convention populated mostly by sitting legislators would be much different than what happens in every legislative session.

Source: Gruening, Win, Constitutional Convention would open a can of worms, Juneau Empire, April 28, 2022.

[W]ho will the constitutional delegates be? Do you think it’s likely it would be different from the current legislators or others deeply involved in government? That’s probably not likely….

Source: Mertz, Max, Just say no to a constitutional convention, Juneau Empire, June 7, 2022.

It is common sense that… the people who go to this constitutional convention will be lawmakers overall by a great majority.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.

A convention would be dominated by the special interests


Fact Claim

The most powerful special interests in a state (the apex special interests) invariably oppose calling a convention because, by definition, they excel at influencing the legislature and feel they will have less clout with an independently elected convention.

The relevant question for those who make this argument is not whether special interests won’t have some power over a convention but why special interests would have more power over a convention’s constitutional proposals than a legislature’s.

To be sure, the same special interests so opposed to calling a convention will do everything in their power to elect their supporters to a convention. But the fact that they so strenuously oppose conventions is a strong “signal” (that is, compelling evidence) that they recognize that their influence efforts will likely be less successful with a convention than the legislature.

We don’t want special interests to remake Alaska’s constitution for their own gain.

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/about/

A Constitutional Convention would risk special interests and big money lobbyists rewriting it to suit their goals, not to the benefit of Alaskans.

Source: Rockey, Tim, Group forms opposing constitutional convention, KTUU, Dec. 12, 2021. Also published in Alaska’s News Source, Dec. 12, 2021.

Convention delegates would be hijacked by out-of-staters


Fact Claim

Authoritarian leaders and demagogues from across the world routinely blame democratic opposition movements on the influence of outsiders, often the United States, even when they provide no credible evidence of this.  These arguments are pervasive because they tend to be effective in the absence of countervailing information; after all, outsiders lack democratic legitimacy. No one wants outsiders with different interests controlling their lives.

Alas, this type of argument–and for the same type of strategic reason and with the same lack of evidence–is routinely made by convention opponents. Any convention opponent who makes this type of argument should not only be asked to provide evidence for their contention but also, given the historical and anti-democratic abuse of this type of argument, told that the burden of proof for making it should lie with them.

To this author’s knowledge, no convention opponent has provided this type of evidence during the last 20 years of U.S. periodic convention referendum calls; that is, from 2002 to 2022, the period his research focuses on. Moreover, to this author’s knowledge, no evidence can be provided since there is no credible evidence that outside interests have supported one of those convention calls whereas there is abundant evidence, including in Alaska in 2022, that there has been major outside money opposing convention calls.

As of Oct. 10, 2022, convention opponents had raised a total of $2.76 million, of which $2.594 came from outside sources ($600,000 from the National Education Association and $1.994 million from the Sixteen Thirty Fund). Supporters had raised $21,352 of which $0 came from outside sources.

To be sure, there have been no delegate elections during this 20-year period. But convention calls are a good proxy for them because if a convention were in the interest of a major out-of-state interest, it would be rational for that entity to support a call for a delegate election just as it has been rational for out-of-state interests to oppose a convention call if they don’t want a delegate election.

If dark money special interest from the Lower 48 were allowed to re-write our founding document, they’d change it to benefit themselves. Our founding document has served us well for over 50 years. If it needs to be amended, there’s a way to do that – and we’ve done it before.

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/about/

As I write this, outside interests are pouring millions in unlimited dark money into an effort to turn Alaska into a civic guinea pig. They want to shred and rewrite Alaska’s founding document and start over again with a boot on the neck of your personal privacy, natural resources, Permanent Fund dividend, schools, the judiciary, civil rights and liberties — all to the tune of $17 million of Alaskans’ money.

Source: Bakalar, Libby, Why saying ‘no’ to a constitutional convention is the most important vote you’ll cast this November, Anchorage Daily News, July 18, 2022.

Conventions Would Lead to Business Uncertainty & Thus Decline


Fact Claim

America has had 235 state constitutional conventions since its founding. There has been no evidence that conventions have led in any systematic way to economic decline. To the contrary, states have generally boomed for decades after the people have approved the work of a democratically elected convention.

To be sure, all change leads to uncertainty and not all uncertainty leads to good outcomes.  But some amount of uncertainty is the price of progress.

 Because a convention opens the whole constitution up to revision, Alaskans and businesses would have no way to effectively plan for the future. Taxes, environmental regulations, education, and more will be up for debate, creating years of economic, legal, and regulatory uncertainty and preventing investment in our industries. 

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/faqs/

This entire process could take as long as four years. During this time, Alaskans and businesses would be in limbo as taxes, environmental regulations, education and more could be subject to change and create years of economic, legal and regulatory uncertainty….

Source: Gruening, Win, Constitutional Convention would open a can of worms, Juneau Empire, April 28, 2022. 

Alaskans have never voted in favor of calling for a convention


Fact Claim

A referendum on whether to call a constitutional convention has been on the ballot in Alaska six times and been approved by voters one time (1970) and rejected five times (1972, 1982, 1992, 2002, and 2012). Oddly, the 1955 to 1956 convention was not called pursuant to a popular convention call. Instead, the territorial legislature assumed that a convention call would be so popular that it wasn’t necessary to actually ask the voters whether they wanted to call one.

In 1970, convention opponents sued to have the election repeated, claiming the wording on the 1970 ballot supplemented the constitutionally mandated text with extra words that were misleading and implied that a constitutional convention was mandated. Never mind the commonsense question why the question to call a convention would be on the ballot if it were mandated.

Of the six times the question was on the ballot, Alaska’s elites only supported the first, the statehood convention, which took power away from Congress and gave it to the state’s constituted powers (government offices created by Congress’s “organic act”), including the legislature. The politics of statehood convention calls is qualitatively different from subsequent convention calls because only a statehood convention call is viewed as increasing the elites’ power whereas any subsequent convention is viewed as a threat to their power. This differing politics also helps explain why the territorial legislature took the unusual step of enabling a convention without first asking Alaskans via a referendum whether they wanted one.

The claim about Alaskans rejectiong convention calls comes in a variety of forms. Sometimes only the last voter rejection is mentioned. Sometimes the last five. And sometimes it is simply stated that Alaskans have never voted to call a convention. The purpose of such claims in all cases is the same, which is to suggest that present day Alaskan voters don’t need to think through the merits of a convention call themselves because previous generations of Alaskan voters have done so and decided that the convention is a bad institution for amending Alaska’s Constitution.

Alaskans have rejected a constitutional convention each time the ballot question has come up.

Source:Questions? We’ve Got Answers,” Defend Our Constitution Press Release, Sept. 18, 2022.

Every ten years Alaskans are asked whether we should hold a constitutional convention. Each time Alaskans have rejected this question.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.

The convention process would take 4-6 years to pass any constitutional changes


Fact Claim

This argument seems to be based on the argument that after a convention is approved it could take two years to hold a delegate election then another two years to ratify any of their proposals, and then a year or two after that to implement their proposals. This argument is often linked to the argument that during this lengthy period there will be business uncertainty, which would be bad for Alaska.

The 4-year period assumes that Alaska would not hold a special and earlier election to elect convention delegates. The constitution grants the legislature the power to hold such a special election and speed up the process. Legislatures have routinely done so, in part because they believe that a rushed delegate election will favor insiders and thus be in its own interest.

Even if the 4-year estimate to complete the convention process is accurate, it’s not clear that such a time span is a problem rather than a desirable feature of the convention process. Constitutional change should only occur after substantial public deliberation, and delay facilitates public deliberation. Indeed, the extra delay associated with electing convention delegates should be one of the prime advantages of a convention- rather than legislature- based constitutional proposal processes. The greater worry should be a rushed delegate special election, which insiders generally prefer because it favors them due to their already existing organizations and greater name recognition at the starting block.


We have a six-year process… a very long, very expensive exercise in futility.

Source: Joelle Hall, Co-Chair, Defend Our Constitution, and President, Alaska AFL-CIO, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.

This would be a 4 to 6 year process.

Source: Matt Shuckerow, Spokesperson, Defend Our Constitution, “Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?” A debate on November’s ballot question, Alaska Public Media, Sept. 29, 2022.

What will happen to our economy during the 4 years when our legal landscape is up in the air?

Source: Questions? We’ve Got Answers, Defend Our Constitution Press Release, Sept. 18, 2022.


The public cannot be trusted to ratify democracy-enhancing constitutional proposals


Fact Claim

For thousands of years, it was okay for elites to explicitly argue that most people were unfit for democracy. Needless to say, this is no longer an acceptable argument to make publicly.  Thus, this argument usually relies on some type of misdirection, such as blaming special interests for the public’s poor choices. But many people will see through this dodge and recognize that the people’s capacity for self-government is at least being implicitly attacked.

For these people, this argument is effective because Americans have become mistrustful of their fellow Americans and most Americans have come to feel they are on the losing side of most public policy debates.

In the context of public ratification of a constitutional change, this is an argument against all constitutional democracy, not just convention proposed constitutional change, because it is a core principle of constitutional democracy as practiced in U.S. states that the people be granted the power to ratify all proposed constitutional amendments whether proposed by the legislature, signature-petition, or convention. It is not necessary for democracy that the people be allowed to approve the laws generated by ordinary lawmaking; it is only necessary that they be allowed to approve the laws generated by higher lawmaking. Otherwise, government officials would be creating their own constitutional powers.

Arguing that the people are incompetent to ratify proposed constitutional changes is not only an argument against democratic constitutionalism; it is also an argument against all democracy because the rules of a democratic constitution are the foundation of any democracy.

 Note: Leading convention opponents only make this claim implicitly.



A convention will simultaneously hurt x and not x


Fact Claim

It would seem to violate logic that an event y could simultaneously hurt x and not-x, when x and not-x have opposite interests. But this type of heads-you-lose-tails-you-also-lose argument works well in convention politics when an audience for the argument is unsure of its own interests, how the convention process would work, and why the convention process exists.

For example, when an audience is conservative (or Republican) the argument will be that a convention would hurt conservatives. And when the audience is liberal (or Democratic), the argument will be it will hurt liberals. The basic logic of many such arguments is that if you’re in the majority, you don’t need a convention because you can already get your agenda passed through the legislature. And if you’re in the minority, a convention will be dominated by opponents so you will lose. One of the great features of this type of argument is that it can work with any audience’s public policy preference.

 Note: This type of claim is typically made behind closed doors to particular interest groups.



A convention is a bad idea at this time because of x


Fact Claim

It is always easy for opponents of any government change to find some reason why making the change, such as holding a convention, at this time is a bad idea. For example, when things are going well, opponents may argue that “if it ain’t broke, don’t change it.” And when things aren’t going well, opponents may argue that we should wait for more auspicious times to make the change.

A current popular claim among convention opponents is that our country is now too politically polarized to hold a convention. However, it can also be argued that the structure of our constitution-specified elections have been fostering that polarization. For example, election scholars believe that partisan gerrymandering, partisan primaries, and first-past-the-post vote counting tend to significantly contribute to political polarization among elected leaders. Thus, a constitutional convention could be an excellent mechanism to reform some of these undemocratic electoral rules fostering polarization.

It’s also not clear that polarization per se is bad. For example, it’s much better to live in a country such as America that allows for passionate disagreement than an authoritarian country that doesn’t. America has had many periods during its 240+ years when it had many competing and passionate factions, including its Founding Era that led to its currently much-glorified federal constitution. Some of those conflicts, such as between loyalists and patriots, slaveholders and abolitionists, capitalists and socialists, blacks and whites, and urban vs. rural interests, may not fit the modern definition of partisan politics but were nevertheless highly “polarizing.”

Most constitutions, other than U.S. statehood constitutions, have only seen significant change during times of conflict leading to a crisis. While in some theoretical sense it might be best to change constitutions when there is less conflict, times of low conflict seem more prone to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” type of argument. If certain interest groups are now endorsing the polarization argument as a reason to oppose holding a convention, they should be asked why they still opposed holding a convention during the supposed golden age before there was such polarization. Ideally, they should also be asked when they think the current era of unhealthy polarization began and how it differs from past periods of polarization.

Calling a convention will create just one more space for partisan bickering and fighting, making it even harder to move past our differences and work together to improve Alaska’s future.

Source: https://defendakconstitution.com/faqs/

This is not a progressive versus conservative issue. Our eight co-chairs represent a spectrum of political views. We are politically diverse. We share, however, in common a belief that our constitution is fundamentally sound and should not be changed in any major way through a convention.

Source: Alaskan leaders form group opposing a constitutional convention, KINY, Dec. 17, 2021.

To call delegates together in today’s polarized times, where public meetings have become shouting matches, where parking lot confrontations are as common as snow tires in winter and tourists in the summer, would be as irresponsible as getting between a moose and her calf.

Source: Persily, Larry, Alaska shouldn’t risk the free-for-all of a constitutional convention, Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 11, 2021.

[W]e live in a highly charged political climate. Partisan politics, political back-stabbing and chaos are often the norm…. Which is the leading reason why voting to convene a constitutional convention this fall would be a mistake. If we can’t conduct our state government in a sensible manner, what are the odds a constitutional convention will be anything other than a circus?


Geldhof, Joe, There is no need for a constitutional convention: What are the odds a constitutional convention will be anything other than a circus?, Juneau Empire, Aug. 18, 2022.



Many of the same points made in this FAQ are made more concisely and effectively in the following YouTube video by Alaska Senator Hughes: