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Difference between revisions of "Alaska Constitution"

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{{AKConstitution}}{{TOCnestright}}The '''Alaska Constitution''' is the basic governing document of [[Alaska]]. It was ratified in 1956 and took effect with Alaska's admission as a state on January 3, 1959.
{{AKConstitution}}{{TOCnestright}}The '''Alaska Constitution''' is the basic governing document of [[Alaska]]. It was ratified in 1956 and took effect with Alaska's admission as a state on January 3, 1959.<ref>[ ''Office of the Lt. Governor of Alaska'', "The Constitution of the State of Alaska", accessed March 26, 2014]</ref>
==Notable features==
==Notable features==

Revision as of 13:08, 26 March 2014

Alaska Constitution
Seal of Alaska.jpg
The Alaska Constitution is the basic governing document of Alaska. It was ratified in 1956 and took effect with Alaska's admission as a state on January 3, 1959.[1]

Notable features

Alaska has become a case study in recent constitutional development. States like both Hawaii and Alaska were able learn from the constitutional experiences of others states and also penned their constitutions during a more progressive time of reform in state governments. For instance, this reform movement attempted, among other things, to shorten and simplify state constitutions and to strengthen institutional powers to enable elected officials to govern more effectively. The Alaska Constitution reflects these concerns. For example, the governor is among the most institutionally powerful in the nation, and the constitution provides for a streamlined and efficient executive branch and allows the governor to appoint all executive officials and to set the agenda when calling special sessions of the legislature.

Other notable features of the Alaska constitution include:

  • Every ten years, voters must be asked on the ballot whether they wish to convene a constitutional convention.
  • An entire article devoted to natural (i.e., renewable and nonrenewable) resources.[2]


See also: Preambles to state constitutions

The preamble to the Alaska Constitution states:

We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.

Article I: Declaration of Rights

The constitution begins by establishing the basic rights of Alaska's citizens. Much of Article I essentially reiterates the United States Bill of Rights but includes several original provisions. Section 3 bans discrimination based on "race, color, creed, sex, or national origin. Notably, Section 7 mirrors the due process protections under Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment and extends protection to "legislative and executive investigations." In addition, Section 22 establishes the right to privacy; the Alaska Supreme Court has interpreted this to protect, among other things, home possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Articles II-IV

Articles II through IV regulate the three branches of Alaskan government: the Legislature, the Executive, and the Judiciary.

Article II: The Legislature

Article II establishes a bicameral Alaska State Legislature, composed of 20 senators elected for four years and 40 representatives elected for two.

Article III: The Executive

Article III defines the power vested in the executive branch of Alaskan government, otherwise known as the governor of Alaska. Article III also defines the qualification requirements of candidates for this position, as well as how long this position is held, responsibilities to be observed while holding this position and provisions for possible absences.

Article IV: The Judiciary

Article IV defines the power vested in the judicial branch of Alaskan government, which consists of the supreme court, the superior court and the judicial council, as well as the responsibilities, length and terms of service and size of each judicial group. Article IV also defines the qualification requirements of candidates for these positions, as well as how long each position is held, with provisions for vacancy.

Article V: Suffrage and Elections

Article V defines the process of voting in the state of Alaska. Within article V, the qualifications of voters, how citizens can be disqualified to vote, voting methods, where voting booths can be held as well as registration and when elections should occur can be found.

Article VI: Legislative Apportionment

Article VI defines the apportionment of both the House of Representatives and the Senate within Alaska. The article also defines when and how the state will be redistricted, and what boundaries these districts shall observe. The final sections within Article VI regulate a Board of Reapportionment in terms of their responsibilities and restrictions. The Board of Reapportionment is responsible for overseeing any necessary reapportioning within the state of Alaska.

Article VII: Health, Education and Welfare

Article VII defines the responsibilities of the Alaskan legislature to provide a suitable system of education as well as good public health and welfare programs. While the latter two sections are not defined in the depth, the educational system defined by Article VII prescribes that public education shall be established, the University of Alaska shall be established and a board of regents shall be formed to govern the University of Alaska.

Article VIII: Natural Resources

Article VIII describes the way in which natural resources can be used by the state of Alaska and its citizens. It also defines the ownership of the land and resources therein and how this ownership can be sold, granted or leased.

Article IX: Finance and Taxation

Article IX describes what entities are eligible for taxation, under what conditions a taxable entity becomes exempt and that taxable entities will not undergo any discrimination. Article IX goes on to state that money received from taxes will be used only for the public good and shall not be used for special projects unless specified. Furthermore, Article IX states that the governor must create and submit an approved budget to the legislature and that the legislature shall appoint an accountant dedicated to the overview of this budget. Terms governing the aforementioned budget are also listed within Article IX.

Article X: Local Government

Article X describes the provisions set forth for local government as well as the division and organization of the government. According to section three, the divisions are known as boroughs and have several standards defined with this section. The assembly of these boroughs, organized or unorganized, as well as the areas these boroughs service is also defined within this article. Cities are also defined, as well as their governing body of council and boundaries.

Article XI: Initiative, Referendum and Recall

Initiative and Referendum.

The people may propose and enact laws by the initiative and approve or reject acts of the legislature by the referendum.


An initiative or referendum is proposed by an application containing the bill to be initiated or the act to be referred. The application shall be signed by not less than one hundred qualified voters as sponsors and shall be filed with the lieutenant governor. If the lieutenant governor finds it in proper form, he shall so certify. Denial of certification shall be subject to judicial review.


After certification of the application, a petition containing a summary of the subject matter shall be prepared by the lieutenant governor for circulation by the sponsors. If signed by qualified voters who are equal in number to at least ten percent of those who voted in the preceding general election, who are resident in at least three-fourths of the house districts of the State, and who, in each of those house districts, are equal in number to at least seven percent of those who voted in the preceding general election in the house district, it may be filed with the lieutenant governor.

Initiative Election.

An initiative petition may be filed at any time. The lieutenant governor shall prepare a ballot title and proposition summarizing the proposed law and shall place them on the ballot for the first statewide election held more than one hundred twenty days after adjournment of the legislative session following the filing. If, before the election, substantially the same measure has been enacted, the petition is void.

Referendum Election.

A referendum petition may be filed only within ninety days after adjournment of the legislative session at which the act was passed. The lieutenant governor shall prepare a ballot title and proposition summarizing the act and shall place them on the ballot for the first statewide election held more than one hundred eighty days after adjournment of that session.


If a majority of the votes cast on the proposition favor its adoption, the initiated measure is enacted. If a majority of the votes cast on the proposition favor the rejection of an act referred, it is rejected. The lieutenant governor shall certify the election returns. An initiated law becomes effective ninety days after certification, is not subject to veto and may not be repealed by the legislature within two years of its effective date. It may be amended at any time. An act rejected by referendum is void thirty days after certification. Additional procedures for the initiative and referendum may be prescribed by law.


The initiative shall not be used to dedicate revenues, make or repeal appropriations, create courts, define the jurisdiction of courts or prescribe their rules or enact local or special legislation. The referendum shall not be applied to dedications of revenue, to appropriations, to local or special legislation or to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety.


All elected public officials in the state of Alaska, except judicial officers, are subject to recall by the voters of the state or political subdivision from which elected. Procedures and grounds for recall shall be prescribed by the legislature.

Article XII: General Provisions

Article XII describes the state boundaries and intergovernmental relations, as well as other provisions, such as law making power, merit systems, disqualifications and the interpretations of the constitution. Article XII attempts to cover any regulations not previously discussed or defined extensively.

Article XIII: Amendment and Revision

Main article: Article 13, Alaska Constitution

Article 13 has four sections which together lay out the process for amending the constitution.

Article XIII has been amended two times since the original 1956 Alaska Constitutional Convention:

The Article lays out these methods of altering the constitution:

Article XIV: Apportionment Schedule

This section was repealed by measure 3 in 1998.

Article XV: Schedule of Transitional Measures

Article XV is a schedule which provides additional provisions for the Alaskan constitution. These provisions range from the regulation of laws to applicability of amendments regarding redistricting of the legislature.


Within the Alaskan constitution there are three ordinances which follow the fifteen articles. These ordinances cover official Alaskan governance from election processes to the abolition of fish traps.


As of February 2014, there have been 28 amendments to the Alaska Constitution.[3]


Alaskans began to advocate for statehood early in the twentieth century. In 1916, James Wickersham, Alaska's non-voting delegate to Congress, introduced the first Alaska statehood bill in Congress.

Later, in 1955, the territorial legislature passed legislation authorizing a constitutional convention. Alaskan voters elected fifty-five delegates from across the territory, and they met at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks in November 1955 to write a constitution for the proposed state. Alaskans voted approval of the constitution in April 1956, but the new constitution was to take effect only when and if Congress granted statehood for Alaska. Voters approved another proposition in the same election at which they accepted the constitution. This proposition was called the "Alaska-Tennessee Plan." It was so named because Tennessee had successfully used a similar scheme to obtain statehood for itself. The plan called for election of two Alaskans to serve in the United States Senate and one in the United States House of Representatives, although Congress refused to recognize these unauthorized delegates. Instead, these unauthorized delegates acted as effective lobbyists in Washington.

Their lobbying efforts finally paid off in 1958. That year, Congress approved statehood for Alaska. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Bill into law on July 7, 1958. Alaskans accepted statehood as presented in the federal law the following month and elected their first state officials in November, and on January 3, 1959, President Eisenhower proclaimed Alaska to be the forty-ninth state of the United States.[4]

See also

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