Legislature(1993 - 1994)

02/07/1994 01:15 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  CSHB 47(STA) - "An Act relating to primary elections and to                  
  the delivery of the primary ballots to persons making                        
  application for them when, by operation of political party                   
  rule, two or more primary ballots must be provided to the                    
  public."                                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 024                                                                   
                                                                               
  TOM ANDERSON, Legislative Aide to Rep. Terry Martin, Prime                   
  Sponsor of HB 47, testified that HB 47 was introduced in                     
  response to the 1992 election, in which Rep. Martin's                        
  constituency found a problem with the absentee voter                         
  procedure.  He stated this was a result of the way the law                   
  read due to Zawacki v. State in which the chairman of the                    
  Republican Party, Connie Zawacki, through the central                        
  committee decision of the Republican Party, tried to close                   
  the primary only to Republican affiliated voters for the                     
  Republican ticket.  Mr. Anderson explained the result of the                 
  court case was that the state had a hybrid closed primary in                 
  which those registered as Republican, non-affiliated, or                     
  independent, could vote the Republican ballot, and others                    
  registered as any other affiliation could not.                               
                                                                               
  MR. ANDERSON went on to explain that as far as the statutory                 
  ballot was concerned, which was considered the primary                       
  ballot, any affiliation could vote for that ballot.                          
  However, on that ballot only those registered as Alaska                      
  Independent Party, Democratic Party and Green Party                          
  candidates were listed.  He said the result was that if an                   
  individual was not a Republican or non-declared, he or she                   
  could not vote the Republican ballot.                                        
                                                                               
  Mr. ANDERSON said the problem arose when absentee voters                     
  applied for their absentee voter application, and when they                  
  sent back their application to the Division of Elections and                 
  failed to mark which ballot they wanted, they would                          
  automatically, by emergency regulation, be sent the                          
  statutory ballot.  Mr. Anderson explained that this, in                      
  essence, disenfranchised Republican, non-affiliated and                      
  independent voters that wanted to vote for Republican                        
  candidates.                                                                  
                                                                               
  Number 097                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. ANDERSON said CSHB 47 addresses this by stating that if                  
  an individual fails to mark down what ballot they want, the                  
  division would send all ballots, and in this case the                        
  Republican and statutory ballot, and then they would be                      
  required to mark one and send both back to the Division of                   
  Elections.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 133                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. PHILLIPS asked Mr. Anderson why the individual would                    
  have to send back both ballots.                                              
                                                                               
  Number 138                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. ANDERSON replied he presumed accountability was a                        
  factor, and there was a potential for fraud.                                 
                                                                               
  Number 147                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. GREEN asked if further confusion would be created by                    
  sending both ballots?                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 160                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. ANDERSON responded that Rep. Martin believes that the                    
  need to have this legislation outweighs the potential                        
  confusion, and further, the confusion that occurred in the                   
  1992 primary should be alleviated somewhat by plans by the                   
  Division of Elections to do a better job of explaining the                   
  changes in the next election.                                                
                                                                               
  Number 193                                                                   
                                                                               
  JOE SWANSON, Director, Division of Elections (Elections),                    
  Office of the Lieutenant Governor, testified against HB 47,                  
  citing the following reasons for the division's opposition:                  
                                                                               
  *    it would be extremely difficult to maintain the                         
       integrity of the elections process with multiple                        
       ballots being sent to a voter;                                          
                                                                               
  *    the difficulty and cost of programming the ballot                       
       tabulation system to accommodate the rotation and                       
       cross-ballot counting the bill requires;                                
                                                                               
  *    the cost, nearly $1 million, to create as many a five                   
       ballots from which each voter would select one;                         
                                                                               
  *    the disillusionment and confusion of the voters when                    
       asked to select one of many ballots at the polls; and                   
                                                                               
  *    the difficulty in training poll workers, especially in                  
       remote areas, on how to explain the multiple ballot                     
       process to voters in such a way that the voter is not                   
       confused and/or votes the wrong ballot.                                 
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON described various scenario's whereby individuals                 
  could make mistakes due to the confusion of multiple ballots                 
  that could jeopardize a close election, or the integrity of                  
  the election, which could result in court cases.  He said                    
  the Elections feels the solution is to send one ballot - the                 
  statutory ballot.                                                            
                                                                               
  Number 281                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. PHILLIPS asked Mr. Swanson what Elections would do in                   
  the case, hypothetically, if either four or five parties had                 
  closed primaries and Elections was forced to send five                       
  ballots if the individual didn't mark which ballot he or she                 
  wanted, and there was no statutory ballot.  She continued,                   
  saying Mr. Swanson's contention that it would cost $1                        
  million to pay for HB 47 would not be a valid argument                       
  because, by law, they would have to prepare that number of                   
  ballots anyway.                                                              
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON responded that the $1 million deals with the                     
  second part of the legislation, which authorizes the                         
  different parties to do closed primaries, and as each party                  
  asks for a separate ballot, Elections' cost increment is                     
  about $309,000 per additional ballot.  Mr. Swanson discussed                 
  what would happen if Elections sent out an application for                   
  absentee voting with four or five ballots to choose from and                 
  the individual did not mark a choice, then they would do                     
  everything they could to contact the individual through                      
  telephoning, mail, and checking their registration, so that                  
  person could have the ballot of their choice.  He said,                      
  regardless, he would still oppose sending out four of five                   
  ballots to anyone because of the accountability problem.                     
                                                                               
  Number 345                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. GREEN asked how other states handle absentee balloting                  
  in closed primaries.                                                         
                                                                               
  Number 362                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON replied he didn't know, but Elections is trying                  
  to simplify instructions for the next elections.                             
                                                                               
  Number 393                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. GREEN noted that Alaska had closed primaries in the                     
  past and then changed to open primaries, and asked how                       
  closed primaries were handled in the past.                                   
                                                                               
  Number 404                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON said he believed it was different in the past,                   
  because Alaska had significantly fewer independents and                      
  number of candidates.                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 419                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER asked to see a copy of the form for voter                    
  absentee ballot applications, and asked if it would be                       
  enhanced and easier for voters to understand.                                
                                                                               
  Number 428                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON said he would provide a copy of the form to the                  
  committee, and said everything is being changed and                          
  simplified.                                                                  
                                                                               
  Number 439                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER asked, if the committee were to pass HB 47,                  
  there is a section on page 3, line 7, which if in place, and                 
  Elections received back both ballots, on line 7 it says the                  
  director shall make the determination of appropriateness of                  
  the primary ballots on the basis of voter registration                       
  documents, and asked Mr. Swanson how he would interpret                      
  that.                                                                        
                                                                               
  Number 461                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON said his interpretation of that is the                           
  appropriateness would be in the party rules, which would                     
  determine which person is eligible for which ballot,                         
  therefore they would look at party registration.                             
                                                                               
  REP. PHILLIPS said she could see a problem in that if the                    
  individual included a voter registration change with the                     
  balloting request in order to get a Republican ballot, and                   
  Elections looked at past voter affiliation, and if it was                    
  Democrat, you would not send the Republic ballot.                            
                                                                               
  Number 478                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON indicated the way the process works now, when                    
  they get the absentee ballot in the region and it comes back                 
  to the region, Election's looks at the cover to see that                     
  everything is there, and if there is a change, then the                      
  change is made immediately, and although there are no                        
  guarantees, he doesn't think it would be a problem.                          
                                                                               
  Number 521                                                                   
                                                                               
  Discussion regarding changing party affiliation up to the                    
  day of the election and the impact on absentee ballots                       
  continued.  The question remained unresolved.                                
                                                                               
  Number 544                                                                   
                                                                               
  VIRGINIA RAGLE, Assistant Attorney General, General Civil                    
  Section, Department of Law, responded to an earlier question                 
  about how other states handle closed primaries and said that                 
  the fact is, other states don't have anything like this, and                 
  with the Republic rule, Alaska now has a hybrid primary, a                   
  partially closed primary.  She explained that almost all                     
  other states have either classic open, where an individual                   
  goes to the polling place and chooses which ballot they                      
  want, or closed primaries, where if you are registered                       
  Republican you get the Republican ballot, and if you are                     
  Democrat you get the Democratic ballot, and in most cases if                 
  you are an independent you don't get to vote in the primary.                 
  Ms. Ragle said the purpose of the primary is to elect the                    
  nominees for the party, so if you are independent you are                    
  not involved in the primary election.                                        
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE addressed the question of the director's duty to                   
  send absentee ballots and said under HB 47 the director                      
  would have to send all the ballots to the person, regardless                 
  of party registration, because they have the opportunity to                  
  change their registration the day they vote, unless the bill                 
  was amended to designate changing party affiliation no later                 
  that 30 days before the election.                                            
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE referred to the Lt. Governor's recognition of this                 
  problem of having to implement party rules by putting them                   
  in statute, because he didn't feel he had the authority to                   
  implement emergency regulations without a court order or a                   
  statute.  She indicated the Lt. Governor's preference to                     
  have the rules put in statute in order to make the public                    
  more comfortable with the fact that political parties have                   
  the right, essentially, to abrogate state law to have rules                  
  implemented that are not in accordance with state law in                     
  certain circumstances.                                                       
                                                                               
  Number 625                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER asked what portion of HB 47 would the Lt.                    
  Governor find helpful, assuming he does not want to send out                 
  multiple ballots.                                                            
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON replied Sections 3 and 4.                                        
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE pointed out that in Section 1 of the bill the Lt.                  
  Governor and Division of Elections have gone ahead and                       
  adopted permanent regulations to implement this as well.                     
  She added that since there is no provision in state statute                  
  for the Republican ballot being separate from the statutory                  
  ballot, they felt there was no authority under state law to                  
  send anybody a Republican ballot unless they asked for it.                   
  Ms. Ragle suggested HB 47 could be amended to allow for                      
  registered Republicans to get the Republican ballot.                         
                                                                               
  Number 654                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER noted that there probably weren't any other                  
  states that had 60 percent of their registered voters as                     
  independents, which would fall outside of that ability to                    
  designate.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 663                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. PHILLIPS referred to language in HB 47 directing the                    
  director in the absence of any other indication to send the                  
  voter the statutory ballot and asked if this language would                  
  leave the state liable.                                                      
                                                                               
  Number 676                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE interpreted it as doing the opposite, and said                     
  that by sending the statutory ballot, we are complying as                    
  closely as possible to existing state law.  She said the                     
  Republican party ballot was the aberration here, it's the                    
  one not provided for under state law, but they are doing it                  
  because they have to under constitutional precedent.                         
                                                                               
  Number 686                                                                   
                                                                               
  JACK CHENOWETH, Legislative Legal Counsel, Division of Legal                 
  Services, Legislative Affairs Agency, said when this                         
  situation first came about, an alternative occurred to him                   
  that Elections could look at the best record they have on                    
  the applicant's registration, and if party affiliation was                   
  clear, say Republican, then that's the ballot they ought to                  
  have, and only if Elections could not tell which ballot the                  
  applicant would be entitled to, they should then rely on the                 
  default of the statutory ballot.  Mr. Chenoweth said that is                 
  not what the sponsor wants; however, the legislation should                  
  not put a great burden on the Division of Elections.  He                     
  said he did not think it would be a great burden to look up                  
  a person's registration, and if the applicant hasn't checked                 
  which ballot he or she wants and they are registered                         
  Republican, then that's the ballot they ought to get.  Mr.                   
  Chenoweth said only if the Division of Elections could not                   
  tell from the registration should they then fall back on the                 
  statutory ballot.                                                            
                                                                               
  Number 725                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. PHILLIPS suggested that the solution might be to add a                  
  statement saying if an individual has not marked which                       
  ballot they want, but they have a history of being a                         
  Republican, then they should get the Republican ballot,                      
  otherwise, they get the statutory ballot.                                    
                                                                               
  Number 753                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. CHENOWETH suggested language putting more of the burden                  
  on the individual requesting the ballot.                                     
                                                                               
  MR. SWANSON indicated the division would like to have in                     
  statute that to meet the requirements you have to change                     
  your registration 30 days ahead of time, not on the day of                   
  the election, in order for the division to have their                        
  records complete, so they can then check their registration                  
  in order to send Republican ballots to registered                            
  Republicans.  He said they would also, at that stage, prefer                 
  to send anyone but Republicans the statutory ballot if they                  
  did not mark a preference.                                                   
                                                                               
  Number 785                                                                   
                                                                               
  The committee discussed registration requirements and adding                 
  a 30 day registration requirement prior to the primary                       
  election.  The committee members decided to pursue and                       
  debate changing the registration requirement to 30 days.                     
                                                                               
  TAPE 94-19, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 075                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER asked Mr. Chenoweth to include the 30 day                    
  provision in the next draft of HB 47.                                        
                                                                               
  Number 080                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. CHENOWETH recommended the committee keep in mind that                    
  the August primary was fast approaching and asked the                        
  committee to either put an immediate effective date or a                     
  July 1, 1994, effective date or a January 1, 1995, effective                 
  date on the bill in order to avoid problems in the upcoming                  
  primary.                                                                     
                                                                               
  Number 114                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE also reminded the committee that Alaska is one of                  
  the states that has to have any election changes pre-cleared                 
  by the Justice Department before we can implement them, and                  
  they have 60 days after we submit to them to render a                        
  decision, so she recommended an immediate effective date in                  
  order to implement this before the next primary.                             
                                                                               
  Number 132                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER said if for some reason the effective date                   
  didn't get 27 votes for an immediate effective date, then it                 
  would not go into effect for 90 days.  He asked if it was                    
  possible to construct it so that if the effective date fails                 
  it becomes effective January 1, 1995.                                        
                                                                               
  Number 143                                                                   
                                                                               
  MR. CHENOWETH said any date other than the 90 days                           
  constitutionally requires a two-thirds vote, so the only                     
  thing they can do is put dates in the substantive provision                  
  of the bill.                                                                 
                                                                               
  Number 168                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER said the committee would be getting a                        
  committee substitute with the effective date in substantive                  
  language, also changing findings and intent to put in the                    
  proper reference that it is a regular regulation, not an                     
  emergency, the 30 day requirement, and would change the                      
  section where the director would provide to a registered                     
  voter who has failed to indicate his or her preference of a                  
  primary ballot, the primary ballot for the party for which                   
  he or she is registered, unless an independent, and in that                  
  case it would have to be the statutory ballot.                               
                                                                               
  Number 208                                                                   
                                                                               
  REP. VEZEY asked if it would be constitutional to limit                      
  changing party affiliation to 30 days prior to the election,                 
  and suggested instead language saying the director's                         
  decision on the ballot would be based on how the individual                  
  was registered within 30 days of the elections.                              
                                                                               
  Number 230                                                                   
                                                                               
  MS. RAGLE indicated that requiring a person to register or                   
  change party affiliation 30 days prior to an election is not                 
  a burden and should pass constitutional muster.                              
                                                                               
  Number 260                                                                   
                                                                               
  The committee continued discussing the proposed 30 day rule.                 
                                                                               
  Number 428                                                                   
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN PORTER directed Mr. Chenoweth, in consultation with                 
  Ms. Ragle, to draft a committee substitute addressing what                   
  the committee discussed, including a reasonable 30 day                       
  requirement if they determine it is feasible to do so.                       
  Chairman Porter said he would then reschedule the bill for                   
  another hearing.                                                             

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