Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120

05/01/2019 01:00 PM JUDICIARY

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Audio Topic
01:22:34 PM Start
01:23:11 PM HB115
01:40:40 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to a Call of the Chair --
+ HJR 18 CONST AM: PERMANENT FUND; POMV;EARNINGS TELECONFERENCED
<Bill Hearing Canceled>
<Pending Referral>
-- Public Testimony --
+ HB 115 ABSENTEE VOTING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
               HOUSE JUDICIARY STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                             
                          May 1, 2019                                                                                           
                           1:22 p.m.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
                             DRAFT                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Representative Matt Claman, Chair                                                                                               
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Chuck Kopp                                                                                                       
Representative Louise Stutes                                                                                                    
Representative Adam Wool                                                                                                        
Representative Laddie Shaw                                                                                                      
Representative David Eastman                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 115                                                                                                              
"An Act relating to absentee voting; and providing for an                                                                       
effective date."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 18                                                                                                   
Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska                                                                 
relating to the Alaska permanent fund and to appropriations from                                                                
the Alaska permanent fund.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     - HEARING CANCELED                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
BILL: HB 115                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: ABSENTEE VOTING                                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) TUCK                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
03/27/19       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/27/19       (H)       STA, JUD                                                                                               
04/02/19       (H)       STA AT 4:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
04/02/19       (H)       Scheduled but Not Heard                                                                                
04/04/19       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
04/04/19       (H)       Heard & Held                                                                                           
04/04/19       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
04/09/19       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
04/09/19       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
04/18/19       (H)       STA AT 3:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
04/18/19       (H)       Moved HB 115 Out of Committee                                                                          
04/18/19       (H)       MINUTE(STA)                                                                                            
04/22/19       (H)       STA RPT 3DP 1NR                                                                                        
04/22/19       (H)       DP: STORY, FIELDS, KREISS-TOMKINS                                                                      
04/22/19       (H)       NR: WOOL                                                                                               
05/01/19       (H)       JUD AT 1:00 PM GRUENBERG 120                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MIKE MASON, Staff                                                                                                               
Representative Chris Tuck                                                                                                       
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced HB 115 on behalf of                                                                           
Representative Tuck, the prime sponsor.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
KENDRA KLOSTER, Executive Director                                                                                              
Native Peoples Action                                                                                                           
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 115.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
ALEX KOPLIN                                                                                                                     
Kenai Peninsula Votes                                                                                                           
Homer, Alaska                                                                                                                   
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 115.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
1:22:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR MATT  CLAMAN called the House  Judiciary Standing Committee                                                             
meeting  to order  at  1:22 p.m.    Representative Stutes,  Wool,                                                               
LeDoux,  and   Claman  were  present   at  the  call   to  order.                                                               
Representatives Kopp,  Shaw, and  Eastman arrived as  the meeting                                                               
was in progress.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
                     HB 115-ABSENTEE VOTING                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:23:11 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN announced that the  first and only order of business                                                               
would  be  HOUSE BILL  NO.  115,  "An  Act relating  to  absentee                                                               
voting; and providing for an effective date."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
1:23:49 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MIKE  MASON,  Staff,  Representative  Chris  Tuck,  Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature, introduced HB 115 on  behalf of Representative Tuck,                                                               
the  prime  sponsor.   Mr.  Mason  said  HB  115 would  give  all                                                               
Alaskans the  option to  receive an absentee  ballot by  mail for                                                               
all future state elections.   He noted that voters must currently                                                               
submit  a  formal  application  each   year  they  want  to  vote                                                               
absentee.  He  said the Division of Elections  (DOE) could modify                                                               
the  existing absentee  ballot application  with  the new  option                                                               
proposed  in HB  115.   He  drew  attention to  an  example of  a                                                               
permanent absentee  ballot application from the  State of Hawaii,                                                               
which  he explained  recently enacted  similar  legislation.   He                                                               
said  there are  10 states  plus  the District  of Columbia  that                                                               
allow some  form of  permanent absentee  voting, though  he noted                                                               
that  the  privilege is  often  limited  to the  disabled  and/or                                                               
elderly.  He argued that HB  115 would make casting a ballot more                                                               
convenient for  Alaskans who prefer  the ease of voting  by mail.                                                               
He   said  he   believes   HB  115   would  strengthen   Alaska's                                                               
representative  democracy because  it  would make  it easier  for                                                               
Alaskans to cast a vote.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
1:25:12 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON  said  the  state  of Alaska  (SOA)  currently  has  a                                                               
permanent absentee  voter list.   He said the list  is authorized                                                               
by regulation  and not by  statute.   He clarified that,  under 6                                                               
AAC 25.650, the  election supervisor may designate a  person as a                                                               
permanent absentee voter  if the person is a  qualified voter and                                                               
the election  supervisor determines that  the voter resides  in a                                                               
remote area in  Alaska where distance, terrain,  or other natural                                                               
conditions deny the  voter reasonable access to  a polling place.                                                               
He said  a person  can also  be added  to the  permanent absentee                                                               
voter list if he/she is identified  as a permanent resident of an                                                               
institution that  serves the aged  or persons  with disabilities,                                                               
or if  the person  is a  disabled voter and  has requested  to be                                                               
designated as a  permanent absentee voter.  He  summarized that a                                                               
permanent absentee  voter list already exists,  is regulated, and                                                               
is reserved for people who live  in remote areas, people who live                                                               
in places like senior homes, and/or  people who are disabled.  He                                                               
noted that  people on  the list do  not automatically  receive an                                                               
absentee ballot,  rather they automatically receive  the absentee                                                               
ballot application.   HB 115,  he said, would allow  Alaskans the                                                               
option  to receive  the  absentee ballot  without  the hassle  of                                                               
filling out the application every year.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
1:27:02 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON described the "use it  or lose it" model proposed in HB                                                               
115.   He explained that the  bill would require DOE  to continue                                                               
to send  a person an  absentee ballot  unless the person  has not                                                               
voted an  absentee ballot for  a period of  four years.   He said                                                               
this would allow  an absentee voter to miss  one general election                                                               
without being removed  from the list.  He noted  that someone who                                                               
has been removed from the list  could apply to be reinstated.  He                                                               
said a ballot  that is returned as undeliverable  would also spur                                                               
the removal  of a person from  the list.  He  explained that this                                                               
would  account for  situations  in which  a  voter moves  without                                                               
notifying DOE.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON summarized that HB 115  would give voters the option to                                                               
always receive an  absentee ballot without having to  fill out an                                                               
application.  He  added that HB 115 would allow  Alaskans to vote                                                               
without the Election Day hassles experienced by many.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON stated  that  the Director  of DOE  was  unable to  be                                                               
present but can answer questions later.   He noted that SB 105 is                                                               
the  companion bill  to HB  115.   He added  that the  provisions                                                               
contained within HB 115 were  part of a larger comprehensive bill                                                               
that  passed the  House of  Representatives  during the  previous                                                               
session but did not pass the Senate.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:28:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  established a scenario in  which a person                                                               
submits his  absentee ballot at the  polling place.  He  asked if                                                               
that  would  be categorized  as  having  voted absentee  for  the                                                               
purposes of HB 115.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON  said he  does  not  believe  a  person can  vote  the                                                               
absentee ballot at the polling  place, rather the person can fill                                                               
out a  "question ballot."  He  explained the process by  which it                                                               
is ensured that a person who  has already voted absentee and then                                                               
votes in person is not counted twice.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  posited that  the person in  the scenario                                                               
would not  be given credit for  the purposes of remaining  on the                                                               
list.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON said  that is  a  good question  and that  he had  not                                                               
considered that scenario.   He said he would inquire  with DOE to                                                               
see how  it would treat  that situation.   He said he  thinks the                                                               
person would remain on the list as he would be casting a ballot.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  noted that the  bill language states that  a person                                                               
would be  removed from  the permanent  absentee voter  list after                                                               
four years of not voting in any election.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON said, "I believe you are correct.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:30:44 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  WOOL asked  why a  person who  fills out  his/her                                                               
absentee  ballot would  not just  drop it  in the  mailbox rather                                                               
than take  it to the  polling place.   He also asked  whether the                                                               
absentee ballot envelope  comes pre-stamped or if  the voter must                                                               
apply his/her own stamp.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON said  he does  not believe  the voter  needs to  apply                                                               
postage.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE WOOL said that is  even more reason to simply drop                                                               
the ballot in a mailbox.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON said that is the way it would most commonly work.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:31:15 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN asked  how Mr.  Mason expects  HB 115  to                                                               
impact the  number of  people who apply  for an  absentee ballot.                                                               
He asked if there are any expected costs or savings to SOA.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON  said  it  is  unclear  how  many  people  would  take                                                               
advantage of  a permanent  absentee voting system.   He  said the                                                               
only  comparable  example  in  Alaska   is  the  Municipality  of                                                               
Anchorage,  where election  costs  doubled because  vote by  mail                                                               
became the  only option.   He  said the  fiscal note  reflects an                                                               
anticipation that the  implementation of HB 115 would  not make a                                                               
significant fiscal impact.   He said he does  not anticipate that                                                               
everyone will sign up for a permanent absentee ballot.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN   asked  about  the  intent   of  HB  115                                                               
regarding individuals who vote absentee in local elections.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON noted  that  many local  elections  are separate  from                                                               
state  elections.   He  said HB  115 would  only  apply to  state                                                               
elections.    He  said  he assumes  SOA  and  the  municipalities                                                               
coordinate  to some  degree but  restated  that HB  115 would  be                                                               
limited to state elections.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:33:10 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  EASTMAN asked  about  costs related  to a  person                                                               
being  on the  permanent absentee  ballot list  but never  voting                                                               
absentee.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON said he does not  have that information.  He noted that                                                               
it could be challenging to acquire  it from DOE but said he would                                                               
try.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:33:52 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN opened public testimony on HB 115.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
1:34:08 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KENDRA  KLOSTER,  Executive   Director,  Native  Peoples  Action,                                                               
testified in  support of HB  115.   She said her  organization is                                                               
passionate  about the  issue  of  voting and  works  with DOE  to                                                               
ensure  people have  greater  access.   She  said she  previously                                                               
supported House Bill 1 [introduced  in the Thirtieth Alaska State                                                               
Legislature].  She called HB 115  a good step forward.  She noted                                                               
that she  has always found  it odd  that people must  reapply for                                                               
absentee ballots.   She  said she  thinks HB  115 would  help get                                                               
more people  involved, and  that her  organization would  like to                                                               
see other  legislation brought forward  that would  improve voter                                                               
access across Alaska.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
1:35:39 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ALEX KOPLIN,  Kenai Peninsula  Votes, lauded  Representative Tuck                                                               
for attempting  to make  voting easier.   He noted  that absentee                                                               
voters do have to pay for a stamp.   He said HB 115 would make it                                                               
easier for people  to vote.  He remarked that  it would save time                                                               
and  energy for  many  voters, including  people  in college  and                                                               
people in the military.   He said it would not  cost too much and                                                               
there would  likely be problems but  said they should be  easy to                                                               
fix.  He said HB 115 is a marvelous idea.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
1:37:13 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  CLAMAN, after  ascertaining  that no  one  else wished  to                                                               
testify, closed public testimony on HB 115.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
1:37:47 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked  if any committee members would  like to offer                                                               
amendments to the bill.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KOPP  said he would  like to hear from  DOE before                                                               
moving the bill.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. MASON  restated that the Director  of DOE is currently  on an                                                               
airplane and is therefore unavailable to take questions today.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN  said the committee  would not move the  bill today.                                                               
He set a deadline for amendments.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
1:38:53 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE EASTMAN  said other  states offer  absentee voters                                                               
the  ability  to  choose the  elections     primaries,  generals,                                                               
and/or specials  - for  which they receive  absentee voters.   He                                                               
suggested adding that provision to HB 115.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN suggested he offer that in an amendment.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  MASON said  Representative Eastman  makes a  good point  but                                                               
noted that, theoretically, a voter  could use the absentee ballot                                                               
system as  it currently exists  and only submit  applications for                                                               
the desired elections.  He said  he would inquire about that with                                                               
DOE.                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
1:39:59 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR CLAMAN asked  Mr. Mason to coordinate with  the Director of                                                               
DOE so that she can be available for questions on Friday, May 3.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
1:40:40 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Judiciary Standing Committee meeting was adjourned at 1:41 p.m.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB115 ver A 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/10/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/11/2019 9:30:00 AM
HB 115
HB115 Sponsor Statement 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Supporting Document-Alaska Absentee Ballot Application 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Supporting Document-Hawaii Permanent Absentee Application 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Supporting Document-Vote at Home Letter 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Additional Document-Alaska Permanent Absentee Voter Regulation 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Additional Document-Alaska Sample By-Mail Return Ballot Envelope 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Additional Document-Municipality of Anchorage Response to Security Questions 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Additional Document-Municipality of Anchorage Sample Ballot 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Additional Document-NCSL Absentee and Early Voting 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Supporting Document-Alaska Commission on Aging Letter 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115
HB115 Fiscal Note OOG-DOE 5.1.19.pdf HJUD 5/1/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/3/2019 1:00:00 PM
HJUD 5/6/2019 1:00:00 PM
HB 115