(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: We’re at risk of losing our well-crafted constitution

Vote no for a constitutional convention in November.

  • By Meilani Schijvens
  • Tuesday, June 28, 2022 9:42am
  • Opinion

In Alaska we are lucky to have a well-crafted constitution. It is a short, elegant document that provides us freedoms and rights unique to Alaska. However, we are at risk of losing it. Every 10 years Alaskans are asked if they want to keep their constitution or have a convention to rethink it and potentially develop a new one; and every 10 years Alaskans say an emphatic “no thank you.”

A survey of 410 Southeast Alaska businesses by Southeast Conference suggests we are headed toward an overwhelming no vote once again — at least in Southeast Alaska — with only 16% of regional business leaders planning to vote to open the constitution. Our small businesses understand that a constitutional convention puts the entire legal framework of the state at risk, and that long-term litigation over a new constitution would create a lack of business certainty for years to come. Both the Ketchikan and Juneau chambers of commerce have passed resolutions opposing a convention. Our rural communities could have the most to lose. The ferry system, subsistence, fishing rights, Power Cost Equalization and rural education funding could all be in jeopardy under a constitution re-do.

The Alaska Constitution states: “The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed.” While there is no right to privacy granted in the United States Constitution the Alaska Constitution explicitly safeguards these rights, meaning that Alaskans have the right to make personal choices relating to one’s own life. In Alaska this privacy clause extends to many things including (quite relevantly at the moment) personal reproductive health care decisions. For this reason, our constitution is more at risk than it has been in previous decades, as our privacy clause is specifically being targeted for removal.

Voting no on the convention protects our constitution, our right to privacy, our businesses, our economic stability, our rural communities, and Alaskans. Vote no in November.

• Meilani Schijvens is the owner of Rain Coast Data. She is a lifelong Alaskan and has dedicated her professional career to Alaska economic development.

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