Jake Sherman


Alaska's unorganized borough is the only unincorporated county-equivalent area in the entire United States, but the Alaska Constitution never envisioned that would be the case. The framers of the Alaska Constitution drafted a revolutionary article on local government that prioritized localism—participation in local government—to further democratic engagement in the state. Recognizing that much of rural Alaska lacked the population and infrastructure to support incorporated and localized self-governance in the 1950s, the framers opted not to automatically incorporate the entire state under various borough governments. Even so, the framers made clear that the state was to play an active role in encouraging (and even compelling) the incorporation of rural sections of the state as time progressed.

Today, many sections of the Alaska's unorganized borough eligible for incorporation remain unincorporated, resulting in a number of adverse governance outcomes for rural and urban communities alike. This Note argues that Alaska maintains a positive obligation to incorporate eligible sections of the unorganized borough and that its failure to do so is unconstitutional under the state Constitution. Acknowledging the potential dangers of imposing local government on non-consenting citizens, this Note also articulates why borough governance may further the Alaska Constitution's localism mandate by developing the regional political communities envisioned by the framers.

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