Legislature(1995 - 1996)

1995-05-13 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

1995-05-13                     Senate Journal                      Page 1804
SB 182                                                                       
SENATE BILL NO. 182 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                              
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                          
"An Act relating to elections; relating to the division                       
of elections; relating to voter registration procedures;                       
and providing for an effective date."                                          
was read the first time and referred to the State Affairs and Finance          
Zero fiscal note published today from Office of the Governor.                  
Governor's transmittal letter dated May 12:                                    
Dear President Pearce:                                                         
Under the authority of art. III, sec. 18, of the Alaska Constitution,          
I am transmitting a bill that implements most of the proposals                 
contained in my Administration's Election Policy Transition Team               
Report that require changes to existing law.  In addition, the bill            
makes some changes to state law that are required by federal statutes          
and makes a number of "housekeeping" amendments that the division              
of elections has recommended.                                                  
It is apparent that the state needs to adjust elections policies and           
procedures in an effort to boost public confidence that Alaska                 
elections are conducted fairly and efficiently.  One of Lieutenant             
Governor Ulmer's first acts was to appoint a panel of respected                
Alaskans (the Election Policy Transition Team), most of whom have              
expertise in the area of elections, to look into state elections policies      
and to make recommendations for change.  In deciding whether a                 
change is warranted, the transition team was requested to ask the              
following questions about the change:                                          

1995-05-13                     Senate Journal                      Page 1805
SB 182                                                                       
	-	Does it increase public trust?                                              
	-	Does it provide better service to the public?                               
-Does it encourage participation in the electoral                            
	-	Does it reduce state spending?                                              
On March20, 1995, the lieutenant governor released the report of               
the panel to the public.  The report is a thorough and thoughtful              
document, and contains many excellent suggestions for improving                
elections policy.  Several important recommendations were included             
in SB 5, which recently passed the legislature.  I am pleased to be            
able to transmit this bill, which implements the rest of those                 
Section 13 of the bill simplifies the process of absentee voting by            
personal representative for a voter with a disability, a process that          
is currently very burdensome for both the voter and the personal               
representative and that discourages this sort of absentee voting.  A           
personal representative now must make several trips between the                
voter and election officials in order for a voter with a disability to         
use this method of voting.  Section13 would streamline the                     
procedure, allowing the personal representative to accomplish in a             
single round trip all of the steps necessary to allow a voter with a           
disability to vote.                                                            
In addition, sec. 13 of the bill makes several changes required by             
federal law.  It removes the current prohibition on a candidate acting         
as a personal representative, and it adds a provision prohibiting a            
voter's employer, an agent of the employer, or an officer or agent             
of the voter's union, from acting as the voter's personal                      
representative.  It also removes the current requirement that a voter's        
ballot application under this section be accompanied by a letter or            
statement regarding the voter's disability from a physician or from            
two qualified voters.  Instead, the voter's personal representative will       
supply a statement regarding the voter's disability.                           

1995-05-13                     Senate Journal                      Page 1806
SB 182                                                                       
Sections 30 and 31 of the bill double the fees that must be paid by            
candidates and parties filing material for inclusion in the official           
election pamphlet.  These fees have not been changed since 1980.               
Even with the doubled fees, the cost of producing the pamphlet will            
be approximately 10 times the amount collected in fees.                        
Section 32 repeals a provision (AS15.05.040), enacted in 1960 and              
not changed since, regarding voter disqualification for unsound mind.          
That provision is inconsistent with the federal Americans with                 
Disabilities Act and with state statutes on guardianship.                      
Section 33 of the bill authorizes a pilot program for voting by mail,          
in the 1996 primary and general elections, in small rural precincts            
(those with no more than 200 registered voters).  Under current law,           
the elections director may conduct an election by mail only if the             
election is held at a time other than when a primary, general, or              
municipal election is held.  Based on the experience of other states           
that have used mail balloting, the transition team believes that               
allowing voting by mail in rural precincts will increase turnout, save         
money, and eliminate operational problems.  Section 33 of the bill             
authorizes the director to conduct this voluntary pilot program in the         
1996 primary and general elections in no more than 10 precincts, to            
test the application of this program in Alaska.                                
The remaining sections of the bill, except for the effective date              
section, were recommended by the division of elections either to               
conform the elections statutes to current practices or to enable the           
division to conduct elections more efficiently and effectively.                
Representatives of my Administration will be available as the bill             
makes its way through the legislative process to explain what the              
provisions of this bill would accomplish, how they change existing             
law, and why the changes are necessary.                                        
I would appreciate your assistance in facilitating the consideration           
and passage of this bill.                                                      
						Tony Knowles