Legislature(2017 - 2018)GRUENBERG 120

02/23/2017 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS

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             HB 1-ELECTION REGISTRATION AND VOTING                                                                          
3:57:16 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS  announced that the final  order of business                                                               
would be HOUSE  BILL NO. 1, "An Act relating  to absentee voting,                                                               
voting,  and   voter  registration;  relating  to   early  voting                                                               
locations  at  which  persons  may  vote  absentee  ballots;  and                                                               
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
3:58:05 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK presented HB 1, as prime sponsor.  He                                                                       
paraphrased from the sponsor statement, which read as follows                                                                   
[original punctuation provided]:                                                                                                
     The  right  to vote  embodies  the  spirit of  American                                                                    
     democracy.  Casting  a  vote  is  the  most  discretely                                                                    
     effective  way  to  have  one's   voice  heard  in  the                                                                    
     political process.  When we exercise our  right to vote                                                                    
     we impact our community far  beyond an election: we can                                                                    
     elect  individuals  who  will  make  decisions  on  our                                                                    
     behalf about  how our government  will be run,  set the                                                                    
     policies that will guide our  state, and how resources,                                                                    
     both national and local, are distributed.                                                                                  
     Unfortunately, a  surprising number of  Americans don't                                                                    
     exercise their  right to vote.  On average,  only about                                                                    
     half  of eligible  US  voters  cast ballots.  Although,                                                                    
     Alaska is one of a  handful of states which exceeded 50                                                                    
     percent voter  turnout in 2014, almost  half of Alaskan                                                                    
     voters are effectively not being heard.                                                                                    
     House Bill 1  includes a series of  changes designed to                                                                    
     increase  voter  participation  and  access  to  voting                                                                    
     across  the  state  by  improving  and  clarifying  the                                                                    
     voting process. These changes include:                                                                                     
          · Providing same day voter registration to allow                                                                      
             all eligible Alaskans the opportunity to vote;                                                                     
          · Enhancing online voter registration with                                                                            
             electronic signatures to make the registration                                                                     
             process quicker and easier;                                                                                        
          · Ensuring the same early voting locations are                                                                        
             available during every election;                                                                                   
          · Creating on [sic] option for permanent absentee                                                                     
             voting for individuals that plan to vote by                                                                        
             mail every year; and                                                                                               
          · Clarifying and unifying terminology for early                                                                       
             voting to remove confusion between early voting                                                                    
             and absentee in-person voting.                                                                                     
     By adopting the changes in House  Bill 1, we can take a                                                                    
     step forward to increase the voice of all Alaskans.                                                                        
4:00:14 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KNOPP  asked  for   a  definition  of  "permanent                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  replied that when  someone goes to  a voting                                                               
location  to  "early  vote"  it  is  called  "in-person  absentee                                                               
voting."    He asserted  there  was  confusion, even  among  poll                                                               
watchers, about  whether an absentee voter  could vote in-person.                                                               
He  maintained that  "absentee  voting"  is a  term  used by  the                                                               
Division  of  Elections (DOE)  referring  to  how the  ballot  is                                                               
processed.  He  relayed that one does not have  to be absent from                                                               
his/her district to vote absentee.   He said that voting absentee                                                               
is a form of  early voting or voting by mail.   He concluded that                                                               
if one votes at an election  polling location prior to the day of                                                               
the election, it is referred to as "in-person absentee voting."                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX offered  that when she visits  homes in her                                                               
district,  she  has discovered  on  numerous  occasions that  the                                                               
person registered to vote at that  address is no longer living at                                                               
that address and now lives in  another voting district.  She said                                                               
that in referring to her voter  file, she has discovered that the                                                               
person  who  moved is  still  voting  in Representative  LeDoux's                                                               
district.   She relayed that  she has  asked DOE if  a candidate,                                                               
poll watcher, or  anyone else could challenge  that person's vote                                                               
and was told  "no."  She compared  it to moving out  of state and                                                               
voting as  if still an Alaskan  resident.  She asked  if the vote                                                               
could be  challenged and  if something could  be done  to rectify                                                               
this situation.                                                                                                                 
4:03:59 PM                                                                                                                    
JOSIE  BAHNKE, Director,  Central Office,  Division of  Elections                                                               
(DOS),   Office   of   the    Lieutenant   Governor,   asked   if                                                               
Representative LeDoux was referring to  challenging the vote of a                                                               
permanent absentee voter.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  said,  "No,   not  a  permanent  absentee                                                               
voter."   She gave  the example  of someone  living on  the south                                                               
side of Anchorage  who keeps coming back to Midtown  to vote; who                                                               
has  never changed  his/her voter  registration to  reflect where                                                               
he/she now  lives; who  no longer owns  property in  Midtown; and                                                               
who  no longer  is  a resident  of Midtown.    She asserted  that                                                               
elections can be  very close and expressed her belief  that it is                                                               
inappropriate for someone  to vote in a district  in which he/she                                                               
no  longer lives.    She asked  why there  isn't  a mechanism  to                                                               
challenge a voter who is voting outside of his/her district.                                                                    
4:05:57 PM                                                                                                                    
LAURI  WILSON, Elections  Supervisor, Southeast  Region, Division                                                               
of Elections  (DOE), Office of the  Lieutenant Governor, answered                                                               
that  there are  times when  a voter  moves and  does not  update                                                               
his/her residence address with DOE, and  it is up to the voter to                                                               
notify DOE of  an address change.  She mentioned  that a voter of                                                               
a  precinct  could  challenge  another  voter's  eligibility  for                                                               
voting in that precinct at the  time of voting, and the voter who                                                               
has been challenged would vote  a question ballot, which would be                                                               
subject to review  by the review board and elections  staff.  She                                                               
said  that  during  the  absentee   and  question  ballot  review                                                               
process, observers are present who  can challenge the eligibility                                                               
of the  voter during the  review process, and the  challenges can                                                               
be brought  forth to the director  of elections for review.   She                                                               
reiterated that it  is up to the voter to  notify DOE when he/she                                                               
changes  residences, and  the law  allows  a person  to have  one                                                               
place of residence.  She  added there are exceptions, which allow                                                               
a voter to be away from his/her residence and continue to vote.                                                                 
4:08:15 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  stated  that  she  brought  this  concern                                                               
forward to  see if  HB 1  could be  amended to  address it.   She                                                               
asked if there  is any mechanism for objecting to  a vote, if she                                                               
has  knowledge that  someone is  not  living in  the district  in                                                               
which he/she is voting.                                                                                                         
MS. WILSON replied  that DOE cannot remove voters  from the voter                                                               
rolls  based on  a belief  that the  voter does  not live  in the                                                               
district anymore.                                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  asked  if   there  was  a  mechanism  for                                                               
challenging a vote cast by  someone outside the district, such as                                                               
signing  an affidavit  declaring  his/her  reasons for  believing                                                               
that the voter is not living  in that district, and the complaint                                                               
would result in DOE contacting the voter to verify residence.                                                                   
MS. WILSON  answered that if a  voter votes in the  district from                                                               
which he/she  has moved, and  it is  brought to the  attention of                                                               
DOE  through a  complaint, the  law is  broad in  considering the                                                               
intent of the voter to  possibly return to his/her old residence.                                                               
If he/she is  still an Alaskan voter, he/she may  continue to use                                                               
the old address for voting purposes.                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX asserted that is  the law for people moving                                                               
out of state  and considering returning to Alaska.   She attested                                                               
that her  concern involves someone  who owns a home  in southside                                                               
Anchorage, sells  that home, and  has no intention  of returning,                                                               
because he/she now owns a home in Midtown.                                                                                      
MS. WILSON reiterated  that it is up to the  individual to notify                                                               
DOE  of   a  residence   address  change,   so  that   the  voter                                                               
registration record can  be updated.  She added  that without the                                                               
update, that location continues to be his/her voting residence.                                                                 
4:11:01 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  offered that  a statutory change  would be                                                               
needed to prevent that situation from happening.                                                                                
MS.  WILSON responded  that's possible.   She  asserted that  the                                                               
issues are  the intent of  the voter regarding residency  and the                                                               
intent of  Alaska statute allowing for  temporary residence, such                                                               
as a work camp, as it relates to voting.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  asserted that  her concern is  not related                                                               
to the person  who is working away from home  temporarily but for                                                               
the  person who  sells  his/her home  and,  for whatever  reason,                                                               
continues to  vote in his/her old  district.  She asked  if under                                                               
current law that is legal.                                                                                                      
MS. WILSON responded that making  Alaska voter laws stricter must                                                               
be addressed through statute.                                                                                                   
4:12:52 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL  offered that  the  observation  of a  voter                                                               
voting  outside his/her  district becomes  trickier regarding  an                                                               
absentee or mail-in ballot.                                                                                                     
MS.  WILSON  stated  that  the  absentee  review  boards  in  the                                                               
regional DOE  offices review all  absentee ballots,  whether they                                                               
are by mail, absentee in-person,  or special needs.  She asserted                                                               
that during  the review  process, an  observer can  challenge the                                                               
eligibility of the voter whose  ballot is being reviewed, and the                                                               
challenge will be referred to  the director to review and decide,                                                               
case by case.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX stated  that  by Election  Day, there  are                                                               
already a certain number of  absentee ballots counted.  She asked                                                               
if those ballots are reviewed by  the absentee review board or if                                                               
they are considered absentee in-person ballots.                                                                                 
4:14:20 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. WILSON  stated that there  are different  processes regarding                                                               
absentee  votes.   There  is a  permanent  absentee voter  (PAV),                                                               
someone who automatically  gets an absentee ballot  from DOE, and                                                               
an absentee in-person  voter.  All absentee  ballots are reviewed                                                               
by the  absentee review board.   She explained that  early voting                                                               
is like  voting at  the poll  on Election  Day -  it is  a "live"                                                               
ballot of  an eligible voter, and  it is not subject  to a review                                                               
process.   She  attested that  any ballot  that is  not by  early                                                               
voting or  Election Day voting  at the precinct goes  through the                                                               
review process.  She summarized  that the ballots that go through                                                               
the review  process are absentee ballots,  special needs ballots,                                                               
and question ballots.                                                                                                           
MS. WILSON went on to say  that no ballots are counted before the                                                               
polls close at  8:00 p.m. on Election Day.   Absentee ballots are                                                               
reviewed  by  DOE  staff;  voter  history  is  entered  into  the                                                               
computer system; and  each ballot is independently  reviewed by a                                                               
review board.   She added that  a deadline date is  chosen by DOE                                                               
staff which  represents the date  by which absentee  ballots must                                                               
have been  received and  reviewed to be  counted on  Election Day                                                               
after the  polls close.   All other absentee ballots  are counted                                                               
in subsequent counts after they are reviewed.                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX  asked if there  is any provision  for poll                                                               
watchers to  observe the  counting of  absentee ballots  or early                                                               
voting ballots.                                                                                                                 
MS.  WILSON  replied  yes.    They  are  not  poll  watchers  but                                                               
observers who are present during the ballot count and review.                                                                   
4:19:29 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH  expressed his support for  increasing voter                                                               
turnout through the proposed legislation.                                                                                       
CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS indicated HB 1 would be held over.                                                                         

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB001 Sponsor Statement 2.15.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB001 ver A 2.15.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB001 Sectional Analysis 2.15.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB001 Supporting Document-Voting Information and Statistics 2.17.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB001 Supporting Document-PEW Report 2.15.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB001 Fiscal Note 2.21.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 1
HB091 Proposed Committee Substitute ver D 2.21.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 91
HB091 Draft Proposed Amendment ver D.1 2.23.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 91
HB091 Draft Conceptual Amendment 2.23.17.pdf HSTA 2/23/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 91