Legislature(2011 - 2012)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/21/2011 01:30 PM JUDICIARY


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ SB 7 FELONS' RIGHT TO VOTE OR BE JURORS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ SB 98 BIOMETRIC INFORMATION FOR ID TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
= SB 30 RETURN OF SEIZED PROPERTY
Moved CSSB 30(JUD) Out of Committee
           SB   7-FELONS' RIGHT TO VOTE OR BE JURORS                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
2:15:31 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 7.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
2:15:43 PM                                                                                                                    
TOM OBERMEYER, Staff to Senator  Davis, sponsor of SB 7, informed                                                               
the committee that currently the  right to vote remains suspended                                                               
from the date of a felony  conviction to the date of release from                                                               
all provisions  of the sentence, including  probation and parole.                                                               
Harsher  sentencing laws  have allowed  the prison  population to                                                               
balloon, while rehabilitative programs  have been reduced to near                                                               
nonexistence. Section  1.12 of  the Alaska  Constitution requires                                                               
that criminal  administration shall be based  upon the philosophy                                                               
of reformation. He stated that  in 2009 more than 10,000 Alaskans                                                               
were ineligible  to vote  pursuant to  this provision.  In Alaska                                                               
the prison  population increased  from 800  prisoners in  1984 to                                                               
over 5,000  prisoners in 2008,  an increase of over  600 percent.                                                               
Of those  incarcerated in Alaska,  48 percent were  Caucasian and                                                               
52 percent were minorities.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER  said that felons  face discrimination as  they try                                                               
to reenter  society. Restoring the  right to vote is  critical to                                                               
successful  reentry  into  society  after  incarceration  and  is                                                               
consistent with the modern ideal  of universal suffrage. He added                                                               
that  SB  7  would  limit disenfranchisement  to  those  actually                                                               
incarcerated,  and  would give  felons  the  right to  vote  upon                                                               
release.  Felon  disenfranchisement  standards rest  on  outdated                                                               
practices, and  former U.S. Supreme  Court Justice  Marshall said                                                               
it  is doubtful  that any  state could  demonstrate a  compelling                                                               
interest in denying felons the right to vote.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
2:24:15 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR PASKVAN asked if he had  followed up on the idea posed in                                                               
the previous committee  of returning voting rights  only to those                                                               
people who had successfully completed probation.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER responded  that he would check on it,  but it's not                                                               
an issue he'd dealt with in the past.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRENCH asked if he'd  read or seen anything indicating that                                                               
giving felons the right to vote upon release reduces recidivism.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
2:26:19 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  answered yes; information  in the packet  from the                                                               
2004-2005 Columbia Human Rights  Law Review indicates a bivariate                                                               
relationship   between   voting   and   subsequent   arrest   and                                                               
incarceration. The  percentage of  voters and non-voters  in 1996                                                               
were  compared to  arrests and  incarcerations in  1997-2000. The                                                               
contrasts  showed statistically  significant differences  between                                                               
those who  participated in  the 1996 election  and those  who did                                                               
not participate.  Giving felons the  right to vote  will arguably                                                               
help to stem recidivism, he stated.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
He noted  that the  bill picked up  a finance  committee referral                                                               
after  it   was  reported  from   the  previous   committee.  The                                                               
Department  of   Corrections  (DOC)   now  indicates   that  this                                                               
legislation  will  create  a significant  increase  in  workload,                                                               
specifically in  the Division of  Probation and Parole. It  is no                                                               
longer  seen  as a  simple  issue  of transferring  data  between                                                               
divisions.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
2:29:55 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH  asked if someone  who was charged with  a probation                                                               
violation could exercise the right  to vote while in jail pending                                                               
adjudication.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER said  he sees no reason that that  they should lose                                                               
that privilege until they are convicted and reenter prison.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  FRENCH  pointed  out that  the  presumption  of  innocence                                                               
doesn't quite attach when it's a probation revocation.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR COGHILL  said it  would be interesting  to hear  from DOC                                                               
about  the numbers  of parole  and  probation violations  because                                                               
this could create quite a paper trail.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
2:32:13 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR FRENCH  asked if  the Department  of Corrections  (DOC) had                                                               
taken a position on the bill.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER said  he didn't know, but the  fiscal note reflects                                                               
the concern that there would be more work.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRENCH  noted that  an audience  member indicated  that the                                                               
department has  taken no  position on the  bill. He  announced he                                                               
would hold SB 7.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. OBERMEYER  said this bill  has been introduced  several times                                                               
before and in  that time many states have made  changes in voting                                                               
arrangements for released prisoners.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FRENCH  said he respects  Senator Davis's  persistence; she                                                               
obviously feels strongly about the issue.                                                                                       

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