Legislature(2001 - 2002)
04/30/2001 04:49 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 193-MODIFIED BLANKET PRIMARY ELECTION SENATOR THERRIAULT moved adoption of the Kurtz S 4/30/01 committee substitute for HB 193 as a working document. There was no objection. SENATOR ELLIS asked whether Senator Therriault's issue with the legislation was access to the ballot by petition. SENATOR THERRIAULT responded that on the date that party candidates had to make their decision, people that want access to the ballot through the petition process would also have to fill out a form with the Division of Election and would then be given a signature booklet. They would then have until the primary to collect signatures, turn them in and be placed on the general election ballot. They would be required to adhere to all APOC filings for collecting and disbursing money for running a campaign while collecting the signatures. This would keep the reporting standards the same for everyone. Number 1104 MR. JOE BALASH, staff to Senator Therriault, testified that the amendment adopted by committee was incorporated into the Finance Committee substitute. He then pointed out that wording was not changed on page 3 of CSHB 193(FIN), line 17-20 to make it consistent with the changed wording of the statute allowing parties to have a single ballot unless they wanted to open it up. He then restated Senator Terriault's testimony. Number 1258 MR. AVRUM GROSS testified that, at the request of Lt. Governor Ulmer, he chaired a task force that worked to draft legislation to respond to the Supreme Court case Democratic Party v. Jones. They ruled that the blanket primary in California was illegal because it did not allow parties to limit individuals who could select that parties' candidates. Prior to the ruling, Alaska had a blanket primary system. Due to the ruling, provisions had to be made so that parties could limit who could vote to select its candidates in a primary. The resultant draft legislation was as close to existing law as possible. Voters would get a ballot with all the offices and candidates listed unless a particular party decided to limit access to its candidates to only those voters registered as independent or members of their party. In that case, independents and members of the party choosing to limit would get a blanket primary ballot with all candidates listed while voters from other parties would receive a ballot listing all candidates except the candidates from the limiting party. This legislation was drafted to encourage voters to participate in primaries and because Alaska has always had open or blanket primaries, never closed primaries. The more primaries are closed the less participation there is. HB 193 is unlike the legislation drafted by the task force because it adopts a closed primary for the first time in the history of the state. It allows parties to tell voters who can participate in selecting its candidates and to dictate that voters who vote for its candidates may not vote in any other primary at all. This gives the parties a power never held before because it would prohibit voters from voting in primaries other than the party for which they are registered even if they are allowed to do so. This is not required by the Supreme Court decision and it limits people who can participate in primaries. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR asked whether the legislation drafted in Mr. Grosses committee allowed an individual to vote for more than one time during the same primary. MR. GROSS said each voter got just one vote but they could vote for a democratic candidate for governor and a republican candidate for lt. governor unless a party had limited access to their ballot. If republicans were the only party that limited their ballot then independents and registered republicans could vote for candidates from all parties but voters registered with other parties could vote for all candidates except those on the republican platform. Number 1709 CHAIRMAN TAYLOR observed that in 1992 or 1994, Jack Coghill was told that. if he closed the republican party ballot, republicans would be able vote in that ballot and also the democratic ballot since the democrats had left their ballot open. This would give them two votes. He thought Mr. Gross was advocating this position. MR. GROSS said that was not the case and he proceeded to explain his position again. Each voter gets just one vote for each office. A party can limit the people who can vote for their candidates but they can not limit a persons right to vote for other candidates beyond that party if the voter elects to do so. "Republicans do not have to vote for republicans if they don't want to. They can vote for democrats if they want to but democrats can't vote for republicans if republicans don't want them to." CHAIRMAN TAYLOR responded that it would follow that all the republicans and independents could exercise their right to vote on the republican ballot then vote for democratic candidates on a different ballot. MR. GROSS said this could all be done on one ballot and each person could only vote once. Individuals would get different ballots depending on their party preference and whether or not the party elected to limit their primary to those voters registered to that party. HB 193 will require independents to pick a party. They will have to vote a straight republican or straight democratic ticket. They can't move back and forth and participate in one primary for governor and another primary for lt. governor. This is what independents want and he could not see the purpose of denying them that right. He could understand republicans not wanting democrats or independents voting in a republican primary but if they did want independents voting in the republican primary, what difference would it make if they voted for state senate in a democratic primary. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR thought that could easily be set up but would probably not be acceptable to democrats. His preference is that every independent and every republican gets two ballots so they could vote for republican candidates and also democratic ones. MR. GROSS said that under this bill, if a republican asked for the republican ballot he would be prohibited from participating in the democratic primary whether the democrats wanted him to or not. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR said he understood that. MR. GROSS thanked the committee for hearing his testimony. He continued to question why independents should be cut off from participating in a blanket primary. He'd heard no support for that position. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked Mr. Gross for his opinion on what had been added to the bill. MR. GROSS replied that wasn't his focus but it sounded reasonable. SENATOR THERRIAULT expressed his appreciation to the task force and agreed that they had returned recommendations that were as close to original statute as possible. This was appropriate since they were not asked to make a policy call and is what the legislature is now doing. MR. GROSS stated he came to testify because of the way the legislation has developed not simply because it was changed. Number 2067 REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL testified that this is a personal priority even though the task force put forward the bill using the parameters set by Lt. Governor Ulmer. He then read from page 14 of Democratic Party v. Jones which provides him with the logic behind HB 193. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR called a recess at 5:31 p.m. and called the meeting back to order at 5:35 p.m. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked that the Director of the Division of Elections come forward to comment on the new section of the bill not considered by the House. (NEW TAPE) TAPE 01-27, SIDE A JANET KOWALSKE, Director of the Division of Elections, stated that her staff had worked with Senator Therriault's staff as well as APOC and the Department of Law and determined there are no technical problems with the bill. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR called for further testimony and received no response. He asked for the pleasure of the committee. SENATOR THERRIAULT moved the Senate Judiciary version of HB 193 and accompanying fiscal note from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR ELLIS objected. CHAIRMAN TAYLOR called for a roll call vote. The measure passed with Chairman Taylor and Senators Cowdery and Therriault voting yea and Senator Ellis voting nay. The bill moved from committee with individual recommendations.