Legislature(2017 - 2018)BUTROVICH 205
02/27/2018 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 192-VOTING: ADDRESS CONFIDENTIALITY; FEES 3:56:52 PM CHAIR MEYER called the committee back to order. He announced the consideration of Senate Bill 192 (SB 192). 3:57:21 PM SENATOR ANNA MACKINNON, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, sponsor of SB 192, said she usually asks questions regarding the need for a bill as well as addressing the ability to have less government. She called attention to Article I, Section 22 of the state constitution which states, "The right of the people to privacy is recognized and shall not be infringed;" she said SB 192 speaks to that privilege, that right of Alaskans. She explained that SB 192 was introduced to address constituency concern regarding personal information being exposed on internet search engines. She shared a personal story of a constituent who wanted her personal information to remain private, but her information was made public when she registered to vote. She noted that internet search engines provide personal information to everyone that searches, including: name, mailing address, social security number, phone number, e-mail address, and credit score. She asked when will the federal government start to protect people's right to privacy once again. She acknowledged that people can actively choose to share their information but pointed out that search engines are mined for data for private companies as well as political organizations. 4:01:55 PM She explained that SB 192 does two things: allows an opt-out measure and increases the fee to access registered voter information. She explained that the opt-out measure allows individuals to not share their mailing address, physical address, and precinct number. She asserted that the precinct number should not be exposed because the number in highly populated areas gets down to the neighborhood level where a stalker could eventually find someone. SENATOR MACKINNON disclosed that the fee to access the state's voter registry is nominally priced at $20. She detailed that SB 192 sets the "fee barrier" at $1,000, an average fee amount that was based on a poll conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). She noted that the change does not prohibit political organizations or pollsters who use the voter data to cross-tab and sell to others, but the monetary barrier is intended to prevent access by individuals who want to misuse the information. She added that the "fee barrier" does not distinguish between a statewide and precinct list and does not impose and cannot impose copy right laws. She pointed out that the registered voter data includes a cross-check with the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation that results in data that is rich with actual physical and mailing addresses that are consistently updated for individuals to receive their PFD [Permanent Fund dividend]. She said now that the state automatically registers individuals to vote, their information is going to become more readily available to both those that sell the addresses to other people as well as general folks who are doing internet search engine searches to locate people in specific areas. She summarized that she has families in her district that are affected by the data access and noted that she has raised the issue with the lieutenant governor's office. CHAIR MEYER opined that the fee going from $20 to $1,000 is a big jump. He asked to verify that $1,000 is the average statewide fee. SENATOR MACKINNON specified that the average is nationwide. 4:05:59 PM BRITTANY HARTMANN, Staff, Senator MacKinnon, Alaska State Legislature, Juneau, Alaska, clarified that the NCSL poll results showed that the average cost for a voter list in all 50 states is $1,825. CHAIR MEYER said he appreciated what Senator MacKinnon is doing. He opined that information is easily obtainable and noted that data can be accessed from fishing and hunting licenses as well. He asked if Senator MacKinnon is aware of an address confidentiality program that keeps an individual's address confidential for domestic [violence] survivors. SENATOR MACKINNON replied that there is a process where some data can be suppressed, but the precinct number is not suppressed. She said the process is not as specific as to what is being asked to be suppressed in SB 192. She added that the suppression requires a hurdle of a domestic violence and the threshold is not reached if someone is trying escape a family member. She detailed that to reach the threshold a family member must be incarcerated, or a claim must be filed against the family member, an aspect that her constituent does want to endure. 4:07:50 PM CHAIR MEYER noted in the Municipality of Anchorage that providing a person's name regarding property taxes results in the ability to access a person's address, how much they paid for their house and what it is appraised at. SENATOR MACKINNON replied that she would prefer to eliminate the access that Chair Meyer has described as well; however, under a federal act that cannot be eliminated. She noted that a person though would have to know the state a person is in as well as the city to be able to access that data, more at a micro level than a macro level. She explained that in her constituent's case the person may not have known her constituent was in Alaska and even if they did, they wouldn't have been able to access a municipal database to find my constituent because they would not have known which city location her constituent was in to access the data Chair Meyer was speaking to. SENATOR WILSON pointed out that he can search for individuals on the Division of Elections' website. He asked if SB 192 will also address the Division of Elections' website regarding a personal search. SENATOR MACKINNON answered that she believed yes. She noted that Director Josie Bahnke from the Alaska Division of Elections is in attendance and available to address the committee. SENATOR EGAN asked how SB 192 will affect campaigns. He said the $1,000 fee, especially in smaller communities, will be expensive for the individual running for council or assembly. He asked if Senator MacKinnon thinks that the $1,000 fee will cause a disadvantage for somebody running for municipal election. 4:10:07 PM SENATOR MACKINNON replied that she thinks there are work-arounds to everything the legislature does. She noted that the major parties allow data to be shared with anyone that is associated with them. She opined that a statewide organization could pay $1,000 and share the data because that data is not copy written. She said she is not opposed to having someone who is registered for election to have a fee that is different for a precinct or an area that is lower than $1,000; however, she pointed out that the nationwide average is $1,800 for a statewide list. She emphasized that she brought the legislation forward as a concern from her district that her constituents' information is being sold very inexpensively to everyone. She said she thought the $1,000 barrier to someone who is not declaring that they are going to raise over $1,000 may create a barrier for that candidate and there is a way around that issue if someone is registered in an election to run for office. SENATOR EGAN stated that he appreciated what Senator MacKinnon was trying to do; however, he asked if she thought the bill protects domestic violence victims and queried if the bill also addresses other data sources like tax rolls, PFD, or anything from a recorder's office. SENATOR MACKINNON replied that she will divert part of the question to the Alaska Division of Elections and the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. She said her understanding is the data would go backwards so that both systems are affected. She asserted that the bill's threshold is lower than having to have been a victim of domestic violence. She asked that consideration be given to those that are stalked or bullied who do now want their information exposed. She explained the proposed data-blocking process as follows: How we walk through this with the Division of Elections is that you could go online electronically, check a box, and your data would be blocked. A different address like the Division of Elections' address or the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation's address would be exposed instead of your own private information. She reiterated that the precinct number must be out otherwise a person's identity still can be pinpointed. She summarized that the bill provides those experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault an opportunity to shield their physical address from others. 4:13:12 PM MS. HARTMANN provided the sectional analysis for SB 192 as follows: Section 1: AS 15.07.060 Each voter applicant must indicate whether or not they want their residential and mailing addresses to be made confidential. Section 2: AS 15.07.060 Establishes how an applicant, or a person acting on behalf of the applicant, may indicate that they desire to keep their address or addresses confidential; by making a statement to a registration official or by marking a box on the registration form. Section 3: AS 15.07.064 Requires that the Division of Elections use the address provided on the Permanent Fund Application, if it is different from their current registration address, but the division must also keep that address confidential if the voter requested their address to be confidential. Section 4: AS 15.07.127 Increases the fee for the state's master-voter- registration list and a list by precinct to $1,000. This section also requires that the voter's address be kept confidential from this list if the voter has requested confidentiality. Section 5: AS 15.07.195 Allows a voter to elect to keep the voter's mailing address confidential and eliminates a requirement that a voter may only request that the voter's residential address be kept confidential if the voter provided a separate mailing address. Section 6: AS 15.15.400 Provides that copies of the statewide list and a list by precinct, may be purchased from the division for $1000. This section also makes such copies of the list subject to the address confidentiality provisions. SENATOR COGHILL addressed section 2 that noted, "Person acting on behalf;" he asked if that meant anybody that had legal authority. MS. HARTMANN replied that is what she believed it is and noted that the verbiage is already in statute. SENATOR COGHILL pointed out that section 2 is a new subsection and queried if the language was rewritten. MS. HARTMANN answered that the section is new but explained that the current statute allows for someone to be registered by someone else on behalf of them. 4:15:40 PM SENATOR COGHILL stated that he struggles with the bill and explained as follows: I struggle with this bill, I'm not a big fan of it at this point. I appreciate what they are trying to do but this pulls the shade down for everybody, necessarily I think that is a little more complicated than I am willing to go down the road on. I appreciate the fact that you don't want to necessarily create a legal action to get yourself off of the roll, so I'm sympathetic to that and I'm not too sure how to deal with it. This issue just came to me yesterday morning for the first time, I looked at it and my first reaction is "no;" but, I appreciate it and wanted to listen to the sponsor's input on why a family might feel a need to be safe from that but I also see that what you are saying is anybody who does it so then you have a public safety part but you also have those who want to be more nefarious can also pull that shade down, and then you have the problem Senator Egan brought up and that is we have created a democracy problem in contacting people, sometimes we weary people to death and I get that so I think people would check-it because of that. Sometimes the privacy issue as brought up is just so pervasive that where do you start? I think what she is trying to do as a sponsor is trying to put her foot down in one place and say, "At least here is what the state can control." So, I'm probably more inclined to go to a different kind of application which would allow confidentiality for whatever cause and have to state what that cause is, it could be anything from a legal action to a fear action, that's where I would probably go. I struggle less with the fee, it is true that some places are $5,000 for a statewide list but there are millions of people, so you really can't say an average because the average takes a population plus a cost, so that average doesn't really work out that good. The jump to Alaskans, I tend to agree, it's usually the professional people who are going to want that fee as long as we allow local races to have a reasonable access. So, I don't know where that number would be, I think she started high but I'm probably willing to talk about it because it is true that people are using those lists very frequently in a very loose way, so I'm open to that discussion. As somebody who's had to campaign, I know how valuable it is to know where people live and to go contact them, but I also know when somebody puts a no trespassing you just don't go up their driveway and I think that's what she is trying to say, no trespassing here for me because I feel vulnerable for whatever reason. I don't know that I agree with the approach just yet, but I'm working on it. Certainly the statisticians and I've got one in my office who very clearly used some of these things, he's very good at it and has given me good reason to question this, but as I said to the sponsor in my office, "Okay, if this isn't the best way what is a good way to help somebody feel safer in a world where the information is you can get it anywhere," and this doesn't solve the problem of somebody that wants to feel safe in my view. I don't mind the dollar amount because generally speaking these are highly manipulated databases basically for all of the political reasons, we all know about, but at the end of the day they are people, they are just individual people and some of them don't want to be bothered for whatever reason. I just don't know that this is the best way to get there, so I'm hoping you're not going to move it out right away because I'm still warming up to the idea. I'm trying to think what's the best solution. I'm trying to think of an amendment that I might put into it and I'm really at a loss at this point. So, I just wanted to let the sponsor know I appreciate the effort but I'm not with her on this particular approach yet. 4:20:16 PM CHAIR MEYER noted that the committee will go through public testimony that may provide additional input to Senator Coghill. SENATOR COGHILL remarked that he hoped people do not think that the committee is insensitive to people who "feel that fear." He queried how to get it done but appreciated Senator MacKinnon stepping up to try and figure out a way. SENATOR MACKINNON asked to speak to the "nefarious" part in Senator Coghill's previous statement as follows: Public safety and the State of Alaska would still have access to all of that data; this is as you say, "no trespassing," that a private person is putting up in their yard, and we are allowing this data to be sold. We are allowing it to become profitable information at the expense of folks who are asking not to have their data sold. SENATOR COGHILL opined that in a democratic world you must enlist people to participate and that is one of the issues that must be dealt with as to how to keep people safe while still allowing the democratic process to work, an issue that he struggles with. He said on the other hand he referenced data Senator MacKinnon provided that showed ways other states have "imperfectly" dealt with the issue that the legislature is trying to address, mostly dealing with sexual assault, sexual violence and things like that where a restraining order is required. He noted that Senator MacKinnon said there is a lower threshold, something that becomes problematic for him. He opined that he questioned the ability to jut checkoff a box for whatever reason if someone wanted to disappear. 4:22:25 PM CHAIR MEYER opened public testimony. 4:23:00 PM JOSIE BAHNKE, Director, Alaska Division of Elections, Juneau, Alaska, testified that the division does not oppose SB 192. She said the division feels that the legislation is relatively straight forward to implement since the division currently has a way to mark a voter's information as confidential. She noted that the change in the bill would have no impact on the financial cost associated with the division's conduct of state and federal elections nor would any additional staff be required to implement the proposed law. SENATOR WILSON asked Ms. Bahnke to address what would happen to the ability to search names on the division's website if the bill passed. MS. BAHNKE replied that the only search on the division's website requires a person to enter personal identifiers that includes: voter ID, name, last-four digits of a social security number; if someone knows that information, they could do a search on themselves or someone else. 4:25:43 PM SENATOR WILSON stated that he has questions for the sponsor regarding the impact on voter registration, voting processes at political party conventions, or the possibility of inhibiting folks from being able to participate in the voting process. SENATOR COGHILL asked if someone acting on another person's behalf when voting would normally be "power of attorney." He said the statute is AS 15.07.070(b) and Ms. Bahnke can answer the question later. He inquired what the division will do with the money from the proposed $1,000 fee. MS. BAHNKE answered that currently the Division of Elections has no vehicle to get the funding directed to the division, so all receipts would go through the general fund. SENATOR COGHILL asked if the division has talked about raising the value of the sale of lists. MS. BAHNKE answered that the division has not. SENATOR COGHILL asked if she had thought about what the value might be as a tool for the division's benefit to help manage the voting list. He said the fee is steep but conceded that the proposed fee is not totally unreasonable. CHAIR MEYER inquired how many times the division sells the list per year. 4:29:07 PM MS. BAHNKE replied that the division sells approximately 50- statewide lists per year. CHAIR MEYER asked if there is a requirement when someone buys the list. MS. BAHNKE explained that the division collects the name of the organization the individual is representing and address. She noted that the division mails a DVD with the information. CHAIR MEYER surmised that if the fee is paid the state does not know who is receiving the information or what they are going to do with the information. MS. BAHNKE answered yes. SENATOR COGHILL noted that approximately 27 percent of the state's population moves per year. He asked how the division manages its files and if the bill is going to affect file accuracy. MS. BAHNKE answered that in statute the division has a very detailed process to annually conduct list maintenance, something the division recently completed. She explained that to ensure the voter roll accuracy, the division is a member of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a group of 23 states where the division does cross-state and in-state duplicate death records where reports are run on a regular basis. She added that the division gets the most current PFD automatic-voter-registration information from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation as well. SENATOR COGHILL conceded that once in awhile his confidence in government is low and the Division of Elections has not escaped his scrutiny. He said the division's voter-file management is a process they must go through; however, he pointed out that there have been times when the division's accuracy had to be investigated. He opined that the bill would make checking on the division's accuracy very hard to do. He summarized that division accountability is another factor that must be considered. 4:32:46 PM CHAIR MEYER asked if requesting confidentiality during voter registration was currently possible. MS. BAHNKE answered that the division has both a paper and online voter registration application process that allows voters to request that their residence address remain confidential if a separate mailing address is provided. 4:34:09 PM CARMEN LOWRY, Executive Director, Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Juneau, Alaska, testified in support of SB 192. She said SB 192 will go along way to protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. She asserted that abusers go to great lengths to find out where people live, and the bill provides confidentiality and safety for victims. She added that the bill will also encourage people to vote by allowing a person to control access to their residential and mailing addresses. 4:36:03 PM CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony. SENATOR MACKINNON noted that she has communicated with individuals affected by stalking who are not comfortable with calling in, e-mailing or texting, the very people that the bill intends to protect. She set forth that setting a lower threshold protects all people. She summarized as follows: I understand that we want to make sure that we can reach out and talk to people as elected officials, but if people don't want to talk to us, they have a right to put up a no-trespass sign. 4:37:21 PM CHAIR MEYER held SB 192 in committee.