Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/07/2002 03:35 PM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                    
                 SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                                                               
                        February 7, 2002                                                                                        
                            3:35 p.m.                                                                                           
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Gene Therriault, Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Ben Stevens                                                                                                             
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chair                                                                                              
Senator Rick Halford                                                                                                            
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 258                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to the use of electronic ballots."                                                                             
     MOVED CSSB 258 OUT OF COMMITTEE                                                                                            
SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 22                                                                                             
Relating to declaring March 2002 as Sobriety Awareness Month.                                                                   
     SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                    
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 31                                                                                                  
Urging the United States Congress to permit the use of tax exempt                                                               
bonds to fund loans for veterans who served after 1976.                                                                         
     SCHEDULED BUT NOT HEARD                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
Russ Kelly                                                                                                                      
Legislative Intern to Senator Leman                                                                                             
Alaska State Capitol room 516                                                                                                   
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
 POSITION STATEMENT:  Introduced CSSB 258                                                                                     
Gail Fenumiai                                                                                                                   
Office of the Lieutenant Governor                                                                                               
Division of Elections                                                                                                           
P.O. Box 110017                                                                                                                 
Juneau, AK 99811-0017                                                                                                           
POSITION STATEMENT: Answered questions on SB 258                                                                              
Jim Dickson                                                                                                                     
Washington D.C.                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified via  teleconference in  support of                                                            
SB 258                                                                                                                          
Tony Sirvello                                                                                                                   
Harris County Clerks Office                                                                                                     
Harris County, Texas                                                                                                            
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified via  teleconference in support of SB
Sandy Sanderson                                                                                                                 
Palmer, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified via  teleconference in support of SB
June Haas                                                                                                                       
Haines, AK                                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified via  teleconference in support of SB
Daryll Nelson                                                                                                                   
No address given                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified via teleconference on SB 258                                                                    
Lynne Koral                                                                                                                     
1102 W. International Airport Road                                                                                              
Anchorage, AK 99518                                                                                                             
POSITION STATEMENT: Testified via  teleconference in support of SB
Bill Craig                                                                                                                      
613 De Groff Street                                                                                                             
Sitka, AK 99835                                                                                                                 
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified via  teleconference in  support of                                                            
SB 258                                                                                                                          
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
TAPE 02-6, SIDE A                                                                                                             
CHAIRMAN  GENE   THERRIAULT  called   the  Senate  State   Affairs                                                            
Committee  meeting to  order at  3:35 p.m.  Present were  Senators                                                              
Davis and Stevens and Chairman Therriault.                                                                                      
He announced the following update on bills previously heard.                                                                    
SB  236  has  a  potential  CS  that  separates  2003  fiscal                                                                   
considerations from those for fiscal year 2002.                                                                                 
The  Alaska Medical  Association has  yet to  respond to  the                                                                   
privacy issues that were raised in SB 237.                                                                                      
Section  3  of   SB  238  exempts  orders  from   the  Alaska                                                                   
Administrative  Procedures  Act and  research  is ongoing  to                                                                   
determine whether that section is needed.                                                                                       
The Department of  Law is working with the  legislative legal                                                                   
counsel  to determine  whether  the  new crime  dealing  with                                                                   
terroristic  threatening/pipeline   damage  should  be  in  a                                                                   
separate  section  or  incorporated  into  criminal  mischief                                                                   
He announced SB 258 would be the only item heard today.                                                                         
            SB 258-AUTHORIZING ELECTRONIC BALLOTS                                                                           
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  informed  members of  a  proposed  committee                                                              
substitute (CS). He called the spokesperson  for the prime sponsor                                                              
forward to present the bill. He noted the zero fiscal note.                                                                     
RUSS KELLY,  legislative intern  to Senator  Leman, said  he would                                                              
address his  comments to  the CS. He  opened his testimony  with a                                                              
quote from  a New York Times  article written by Jim  Dickson that                                                              
said, "The  fact that the nation's  elections are not  quite state                                                              
of  the art  may  have  come as  a  surprise to  many  Americans…"                                                              
Unfortunately,   this  comes   as  no  surprise   to  those   with                                                              
disabilities. It is  the spirit and intent of the  Frank Haas Act,                                                              
SB  258, to  provide those  with disabilities  the opportunity  to                                                              
cast  a ballot  with  privacy and  accuracy  by the  incorporating                                                              
electronic, paperless balloting equipment into the system.                                                                      
There is no intent  to force the Division of Elections  to buy all                                                              
new equipment immediately;  this would be a phase  in process with                                                              
future voting equipment purchases  made with wide accessibility in                                                              
mind.   He  asked that Gail Fenumiai follow his  testimony to give                                                              
it more  clarity. He  also introduced  the individuals  that would                                                              
give supporting testimony on CSSB 258.                                                                                          
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked for questions from committee members.                                                                 
He  asked  the  Division  of  Elections   representative  to  come                                                              
GAIL FENUMIAI, Division  of Elections, stated she  had no prepared                                                              
comments but was  available to answer questions  on the technology                                                              
and how the division would implement the bill if passed.                                                                        
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT said  his primary  reason for  asking her  to                                                              
step forward  was to have  it on record  that she has  worked with                                                              
the prime sponsor on the committee substitute.                                                                                  
GAIL FENUMIAI  said they  have been  working with Senator  Leman's                                                              
office in the expansion  of the bill to include a  broader term of                                                              
disabilities rather than limiting  it to just one specific type of                                                              
disability. The division is comfortable with the CS.                                                                            
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked who would  be accommodated under current                                                              
MS.  FENUMIAI  replied  the  technology   they  recently  reviewed                                                              
provides  for  a  wide  variety   of  disabilities.  Although  the                                                              
visually impaired  and those using  wheel chairs  are accommodated                                                              
most frequently, the technology is  evolving. For instance, people                                                              
that have  no hand mobility  are able to use  a straw to  "sip and                                                              
puff" their voting preferences.                                                                                                 
SENATOR STEVENS  asked how  many people in  Alaska would  have the                                                              
opportunity to use the new technology.                                                                                          
MS.  FENUMIAI said  the division  would implement  the changes  in                                                              
small  stages.  They  have  made  a  capital  improvement  project                                                              
request and if  the money is made available, they  are considering                                                              
implementing the  new equipment into the regional  absentee voting                                                              
stations in Juneau, Anchorage and  Fairbanks. These stations would                                                              
accommodate voters  from across the state voting  district ballots                                                              
1 through 40.                                                                                                                   
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT established  that instead  of a large  fiscal                                                              
note, implementation  would occur  over time  as new equipment  is                                                              
MS. FENUMIAI agreed.                                                                                                            
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT called for teleconferenced testimony.                                                                       
JIM DICKSON testified  from Washington D.C. in support  of SB 258.                                                              
He works  full time on voting  issues related to  individuals with                                                              
disabilities.  Alaska  is  joining Maryland,  Georgia,  Texas  and                                                              
Florida in  recognizing the importance  of this issue. He  said he                                                              
has never  been able to  cast a secret  ballot in Washington  D.C.                                                              
and  that right  is  precious and  what  makes  this the  greatest                                                              
country in the world.                                                                                                           
TONY SERVILLO  testified that Houston,  Texas is at  the forefront                                                              
for addressing  disabled voter needs.  Harris County  has recently                                                              
purchased a direct  recording electronic voting  system called the                                                              
Hart InterCivic's  Slate. It accommodates a range  of disabilities                                                              
and was used  successfully for the first time  last November. This                                                              
system will be  available for all voting precincts  throughout the                                                              
county in the upcoming November 5 general election.                                                                             
SENATOR STEVENS asked how many counties  in Texas use this system.                                                              
MR. SERVILLO  said it is confined  to the larger counties  at this                                                              
SENATOR  STEVENS  then  asked  what  percentage  of  the  disabled                                                              
population would have this system available to them.                                                                            
MR. SERVILLO acknowledged the validity  of the question. They have                                                              
asked advocacy  groups in  Houston and Harris  County to  help get                                                              
the word out  to blind voters in particular about  the new system.                                                              
Part of  their job  is doing  the outreach  but they really  don't                                                              
know how many  people in Harris County  would be able to  use this                                                              
system  because of  their  type of  disability.  Judging from  the                                                              
increased number of calls inquiring  about the system, the word is                                                              
JUNE  HAAS  testified from  Haines  and  said  she was  in  Juneau                                                              
recently to testify on HB 320 relating  to electronic ballots. She                                                              
explained  SB 258,  the  Frank Haas  Act, is  a  project her  late                                                              
husband did  not finish before he  passed away. In the  mid 1980's                                                              
he  became legally  blind due  to  diabetic retinopathy  and as  a                                                              
result became  a vocal advocate for  the blind. He thought  it was                                                              
of paramount importance to be able  to go into the voting booth to                                                              
vote his  own ballot. Races  can hinge on  just one vote so  it is                                                              
important that no one is discouraged from exercising that right.                                                                
JIM DICKSON said he could provide  Senator Stevens with numbers of                                                              
blind and visually impaired individuals  from the most recent U.S.                                                              
census figures for Alaska.                                                                                                      
SENATOR STEVENS said  he was curious about how many  of the voters                                                              
that need to use  this type of voting machine are  using them. The                                                              
challenge  is  to  get  the  word   out  that  this  equipment  is                                                              
available.  He  also questioned  the  availability  of funding  to                                                              
launch such a campaign.                                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked that anyone with suggestions  on how to                                                              
meet that challenge should step forward and be heard.                                                                           
SANDY SANDERSON  testified from Palmer  and said they  have worked                                                              
toward this legislation since 1995  and there are a number of good                                                              
reasons  for its  passage.  He said  the  importance  of a  secret                                                              
ballot  is significant,  but it  is also  important to  understand                                                              
that  this  is  also  for  other  disabilities.  Individuals  with                                                              
dyslexia, literacy difficulties and  those who don't read or write                                                              
English  would be  helped. He  has  needed assistance  to vote  in                                                              
every election for  the last 43 years. This equipment  would allow                                                              
him to  go into the voting  booth and vote  and know he  is voting                                                              
the way he wants to vote.                                                                                                       
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  asked for comments regarding how  to get word                                                              
to  the disabled  community  about  the  availability of  the  new                                                              
machines and how they work.                                                                                                     
MR.  SANDERSON replied  they  have an  organization  of about  500                                                              
blind individuals  in the  state and  they can help  a lot  to get                                                              
that information out.                                                                                                           
DARYLL NELSON  testified he is  representing two  positions. First                                                              
he is speaking as the community coordinator  for Access Alaska and                                                              
they  would like  to go  on record  in support  of the  un-amended                                                              
bill. As  a constituent of Senator  Halford, he likes  the amended                                                              
plan that  talks about  visually impaired as  well as  people with                                                              
other  disabilities.  He wanted  members  to think  about  secret,                                                              
independent  and verifiable  ballots that  are counted  correctly.                                                              
The original  bill spoke about  visually impaired and  some people                                                              
would  like  other  people that  have  multiple  disabilities.  He                                                              
commended the Senator and Russ Kelly for making it more clear.                                                                  
LYNN  KORAL,  Alaska  Independent  Blind  representative,  thanked                                                              
everyone who  has worked in  support of the  bill and said  it has                                                              
broad range  support.  Before the  CS, they had  support from  the                                                              
Kenai  Independent  Living Center,  Southeast  Alaska  Independent                                                              
Living, State Independent Living  Council, Committee on Employment                                                              
and  Rehabilitation  in  addition  to  14  Representatives  and  8                                                              
Although she has  no problem with the CS and  has always supported                                                              
the  broadest  disability  access   machine,  she  cautioned  that                                                              
blindness is a  low incidence disability that  sometimes gets lost                                                              
in the shuffle. The genesis of the  bill was when Frank Haas spoke                                                              
with Sandy Sanderson  in 1994 about large print  ballots. Although                                                              
she knew large  print ballots wouldn't help her,  she also knew it                                                              
was a way in the door. Blind people  have been at the forefront of                                                              
almost every  initiative  that has eventually  helped people  with                                                              
She  then quoted  from an  article  of Jim  Dickson's regarding  a                                                              
report conducted during the November  2000 election. It found that                                                              
at least 84 percent of the polling  places in America had at least                                                              
one barrier  to persons  using wheel chairs  and no polling  place                                                              
offered  persons   that  are  blind   or  visually   impaired  the                                                              
opportunity to  cast a vote privately.  She urged members  to pass                                                              
the  bill and  said many  disability groups  have newsletters  and                                                              
advocacy groups  that would be of  great help in getting  the word                                                              
out regarding new equipment.                                                                                                    
WILLIAM CRAIG, Alaska Independent  Blind representative, testified                                                              
in support  of SB  258. He  said it  would open  up voting  to the                                                              
blind and  other disabilities as  well. According to  the Division                                                              
of Vocational Rehabilitation, there  are about 12,500 blind people                                                              
in Alaska and as the population ages that number will increase.                                                                 
There was no additional testimony.                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT asked for a motion  to adopt the \J version as                                                              
the working document.                                                                                                           
SENATOR DAVIS moved the \J version as the working document.                                                                     
There was no objection.                                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT  called for amendments from  committee members                                                              
and there were none.                                                                                                            
He noted  the zero  fiscal note  from the  Office of the  Governor                                                              
then asked for the will of the committee.                                                                                       
SENATOR  DAVIS  moved  CSSB  258 and  attached  fiscal  note  from                                                              
committee with individual recommendations.                                                                                      
There being no objection, CSSB 258 moved from committee.                                                                        
         SJR 31-TAX EXEMPT BONDS TO FUND VETERANS LOANS                                                                     
CHAIRMAN  THERRIAULT  announced  Senator  Phillips  requested  the                                                              
resolution be held until the following week.                                                                                    
                 SCR 22-SOBRIETY AWARENESS MONTH                                                                            
CHAIRMAN   THERRIAULT  announced   Senator   Ward  requested   the                                                              
resolution be held until the following week.                                                                                    
CHAIRMAN THERRIAULT adjourned the meeting at 4:25 p.m.                                                                          

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