Voting rights in the Alaska Constitution

Therese Lewandowski

Therese Lewandowski

How did Alaska draft a state constitution? In Jack Coghill’s introduction in the Alaska State Constitution, the 1955 Territorial Legislature passed the Constitutional Convention Act establishing a territorywide representation of 55 delegates who were elected by popular vote that year. Those delegates were charged with writing a constitutional document for the state and they only had 75 days to do it! The Alaska Constitution was ratified in 1956 and went into effect when President Eisenhower, on Jan. 3, 1959, signed the proclamation making Alaska the 49th state.

A very important part of a state’s constitution has to do with voting rights. Article V of Alaska’s Constitution, Suffrage and Elections, covers voting rights and the voting process. It has five sections that define: 1. Qualified Voters; 2. Disqualification of voter; 3. Methods of Voting; 4. Voting Precincts and Registration; and 5. General Elections.

Section 1 defines a qualified voter as a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age, and that they be at least a 30- day resident in their district. The history of this Section has had four amendments, all of which were put to the voters. The 1966 Amendment was the first legislatively referred constitutional amendment. This shortened the resident requirement for Alaskans who only want to vote for U.S. president and vice president. Two important amendments followed in 1970.

On Aug. 25, 1970, voters approved two amendments. The first lowered the voting age to 18. Then, by a very narrow margin, voters also approved a second amendment on the ballot which eliminated the requirement that a state citizen be able to read or speak English in order to vote.

And finally, on the Aug. 22, 1972, ballot, a measure was approved requiring voters to have been a resident and living in the district they wish to vote in for at least 30 days.

There are currently 59 elections bills and 28 voting bills moving through this 2022 legislative session to keep an eye on. You can do it! Go to akleg.gov, click on “bills,” they can be sorted in multiple ways. Or stop by your local Legislative Information Office and get the updates on bills moving through this legislative session.

Remember, all votes count and all voices matter.

Therese Lewandowski is a member of Kenai Peninsula Votes.

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