AK Ballot: Alaskans will vote this November whether to hold a state constitutional convention, and the Alaska Beacon’s Lisa Phu writes that this once-in-a-decade referendum has become an abortion rights battleground now that the U.S. Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade. The Alaska Supreme Court in 1997 recognized that the state’s governing document protects the right to an abortion, and pro-choice groups are urging voters to keep the status quo in place by voting “no.”
Anti-choice forces, likewise, understand that a victory for the “yes” side would give them a chance to outlaw abortion in a state where it’s otherwise difficult to amend the state constitution. It takes two-thirds of both the state House and Senate to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the ballot, and while two state Senate committees last year advanced a proposal reading, “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution may be construed to secure or protect a right to an abortion or require the State to fund an abortion,” it failed to receive a floor vote in either chamber. Senate Republicans and their one Democratic ally currently hold a 14-6 supermajority, but the House is run by a coalition of Democrats, independents, and a few Republicans.
If a majority voted “no” this fall, then this referendum would next take place in 2032. (Alaska is one of 14 states where constitutional convention questions automatically appear on the ballot after a set number of years; in 2012, “no” won 67-33.) If “yes” came out on top, however, the lieutenant governor’s office says, “The process could take as long as four-plus years or, depending on the legislature, it could be as short as, say, two years.” Phu explains that after the convention finished its work, voters would need to approve any amendments or other revisions to the constitution. The Last Frontier held its last constitutional convention in 1955 and 1956, which was a few years before Alaska became a state.