Since statehood, Alaska’s Constitution has included the right of the people to enact legislative change by direct democracy. The state’s initiative process as governed by the Alaska Constitution, statutes, and caselaw reflects a delicate balance of citizen participation within carefully crafted guardrails meant to ensure the efficacy of the process and the role of the legislature. Alaska courts have developed a still-evolving body of caselaw interpreting the restrictions on the subject and scope of ballot initiatives, the role of the executive and judicial branches in the initiative process, and the timing and procedural features of the process. Navigating the initiative process can be expensive and arduous, and can involve difficult legal judgments by the courts, the petitioners, and the executive branch. For decades Alaskans have managed to do just that, and direct democracy has proved to be an important tool for advancing the people’s interests when they fail to garner attention or support in the legislature. This piece reviews the history of direct democracy in the Alaska Constitution and the law on Alaska’s ballot initiative process as it currently stands, including important recent updates.

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