Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/03/1996 02:23 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 349 - ELECTIONS ADMINISTRATION & VOTER REG'N                             
                                                                               
 Number 1744                                                                   
                                                                               
 DIANE SHRINER, Elections Outreach Coordinator, Division of                    
 Elections testified on HB 349.  She stated that this legislation              
 would do two things, the first would be to adjust current state               
 elections law to assure pre-clearance by the U.S. Justice                     
 Department and it would make further adjustments to meet the                  
 requirements of the National Voter Registration Act.  Currently in            
 Alaska law, there is the perception that the division purges or               
 take a voter off the active rolls too early, before the time set in           
 federal law.  The other perception, which the division would like             
 to clear up is that a voter must vote a "counted ballot" to avoid             
 removal from the rolls, rather than just voting regardless of                 
 whether their ballot is counted or not.  The third objective is               
 that the department presently requires an oath on registration                
 materials which the federal government no longer requires.  They              
 merely ask for an assertion or a declaration.                                 
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER noted that Kathleen Strasbaugh from the Department of             
 Law was in attendance.  She has been trying to get Alaska's                   
 election laws pre-cleared with the Department of Justice.  Ms.                
 Strasbaugh would be the best person to ask questions of regarding             
 those particular sections.                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER stated that in State Affairs they took out Section 20             
 which dealt with voting by personal representative, as well as,               
 Section 40 which that committee and the Division of Elections                 
 agreed could use more work and study.  This section dealt with, by            
 mail elections, and doesn't show in the current Committee                     
 Substitute.  The Division felt as though Ms. Shriner wasn't as                
 prepared as she should have been to discuss with the State Affairs            
 Committee why the personal representative section would be helpful            
 to this legislation and why it's supported by the National and                
 State Association of Retired Persons.  She brought additional                 
 information with her which shows the Judiciary Committee what the             
 differences are.   She noted that changes to the other sections of            
 the bill primarily are housekeeping measures which better describe            
 modern ballots, the protection of ballot secrecy, current ballot              
 tabulation and computer processing in elections to conform with the           
 way they actually do business.  She was forthright with the State             
 Affairs Committee, she really didn't believe that these are                   
 substantive changes to this legislation other than the two sections           
 mentioned previously, one of which she would like the Judiciary               
 Committee to consider returning to the bill.                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1968                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN had two questions, one was on                
 Section 7 and the other was on Section 16.  He noted that in                  
 Section 7 he understood the intention of conforming to federal law,           
 but they were setting up an odd situation where the individual who            
 votes in local municipal elections and primary elections, but has             
 a pattern of not voting in general elections would be inactivated.            
 It seemed that this was unnecessary.  It seemed they were moving              
 from current law that allows any vote, in any election to qualify             
 someone as a voter, to apparently only allowing people to qualify             
 to stay on the list with votes in the general election.                       
                                                                               
 Number 2024                                                                   
                                                                               
 KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law            
 offered that the choice of language was strictly to track the                 
 federal law.  The problem with Alaska's past law had to do with the           
 two years provided and they hoped that by taking two general                  
 elections they'd have a full four year cycle.  She didn't see any             
 difficulty in mentioning all of those elections again, provided               
 that they covered two full election cycles.  Ms. Strasbaugh noted             
 that one of the problems they discussed in the State Affairs                  
 Committee was that the word "appeared" was too vague.  Mr.                    
 Chenoweth from Legislative Legal said he had worked on a way to               
 deal with this and she provided him some language which defined               
 this word.   Mr. Chenoweth drafted this language for the senate               
 version of this legislation.                                                  
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH continued that the Justice Department wasn't really            
 suppose to talk about interpreting the National Voter Act, but                
 instead the Voting Rights Act, however, anything which might be               
 deemed to inhibit the ability or discourage someone to vote is                
 subject to their scrutiny.  Someone might consider that Alaska's              
 inactive list does this because someone has to vote under a                   
 question ballot if they are on the inactive list.  The federal                
 government sent the division a long letter with a list of things              
 which they wanted the state to consider and asked for information             
 on certain issues.  The state then withdrew their request for pre-            
 clearance.  There is a way in the law to purge voters, but they               
 thought they would get a better pre-clearance if they had a two               
 general election cycle, which encompasses four years.                         
                                                                               
 Number 2138                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said he would work on a suggestion for             
 Section 7.                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE understood that Section 7 dealt with                     
 individuals on the inactive list.  The legislation just passed                
 required that the inactive voter be maintained on a list that goes            
 to the polls.  He asked if they viewed this section as repealing              
 this.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH assumed Representative Bunde was referring to HB
 211.  She didn't read this legislation to accomplish all the                  
 objectives it set out to address.  She wanted voters to be on the             
 active list to get past this problem.  She noted that is was too              
 bad they were kept together in a way, but she didn't see them in              
 conflict or HB 211 being completely responsive to this concern.               
 She added that it was a good idea, but she wasn't sure that the way           
 she read it that it would prevent question voting.  If this was               
 it's intent she said she should probably have another look at it.             
 The purpose was to make sure someone is not questioned until                  
 they've been through two election cycles.                                     
 Number 2203                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE followed up with an additional question.  He             
 noted that current practice is to put someone on an inactive list             
 after missing one election cycle.  HB 211 said that even though               
 someone was on an inactive list, this list would be available to              
 candidates and at the polls.  He asked Ms. Strasbaugh is she did              
 not feel that Section 7 would change this policy.                             
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH said that, no, she felt as though they needed to do            
 this in order to get by the federal law.  She didn't think that               
 this would help them.                                                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE noted that he didn't think this would meet the           
 federal laws, he just wanted to make sure that this Section 7                 
 doesn't countermand what they just passed which says that the list            
 at the polls will contain the inactive voters, as well as, the                
 active voters.                                                                
                                                                               
 Number 2238                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH said that this doesn't address whether the register            
 is at the polls, it doesn't talk about the master register, but her           
 recollection was that HB 211 addresses some other things about the            
 register that HB 349 doesn't conflict with.  She said that there              
 could be an interpretative question when they begin to operate, but           
 she hesitated to say, since she does not do the hands on type of              
 work to make this determination.                                              
                                                                               
 Number 2267                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN asked about Section 16, on page 7, and             
 said he understood removing the word "daily" on line 9, but why               
 would they want to go from 11 days after the election to 16 days              
 after the election to count ballots.  He assumed that this group              
 doing the state ballot counting review would this to include all              
 ballots, regular, absentee and question.                                      
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER stated that currently many types of elections, such as            
 Rural Education Attendance Area (REAA) elections and smaller                  
 elections do not take that long to certify and it's not necessary             
 to have people beginning to be paid on the eleventh day.  They                
 still have to get all the ballots in and do the processing so it              
 might just take a few hours or a day near the sixteenth day.  To              
 have these people on the payroll from the eleventh day on doesn't             
 make any sense.  This is for the Review Boards.  They won't start             
 their work any earlier than the eleventh day or any later than 16             
 days shall continue daily until completed.  She noted that this               
 change was a housekeeping measure.                                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN stated that he didn't see anything that            
 would preclude them from doing this in two days and cited the                 
 language.                                                                     
                                                                               
 Number 2373                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER explained that they are not always ready to start on              
 the eleventh day because ballots are still coming in or there are             
 only a few to do so there is no need to do this by the eleventh               
 day.  There are other statutes which talk about the requirements to           
 wait or to allow for ballots to come in.  If the ballots are still            
 coming in they can start on the eleventh even though all the                  
 ballots have not been returned.                                               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN stated that his only concern is that               
 this precludes them being appointed prior to the eleventh day and             
 he cited some examples of where this would apply.  He also added              
 that anyone who's been in a close election that goes on forever is            
 very sensitive to this subject.  He noted that there was a separate           
 statute which addressed those ballots which speak to the validity             
 of a ballot and said he'd like to hear it.  The clause they've been           
 discussing addresses when the ballot counting review team will                
 meet.                                                                         
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER then read a segment from Barbara Whiting's sectional              
 analysis of this legislation.  Ms. Whiting is an elections                    
 coordinator.                                                                  
                                                                               
 "The current statute refers to all elections when specifying that             
 the State Review Board must convene at least 11 days after an                 
 election.  Elections other than primary, general, REAA and Coastal            
 Resource Service Areas (CRSA) elections, for example, incorporation           
 or liquor option elections involve usually only one or very few               
 precincts.  Before completing the certification of absentee ballots           
 the Division of Elections must wait 15 days after an election to              
 make sure all eligible ballots have been received.  In addition,              
 before certifying an election, the director may wait 15 days to               
 receive (end of tape)... gives the director the option of having              
 the state review board to begin no earlier than 11 days and no                
 later than 16 days after an election."                                        
                                                                               
 TAPE 96-47, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER said she was not opposed to allow for them to start               
 this process earlier.                                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER pointed out that this wouldn't get to this issue of           
 Representative Finkelstein's concerns about getting the results as            
 soon as possible.  They have to wait 16 days for absentee ballots             
 to return.                                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 035                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN said that this means that in major                 
 elections, for instance governor's elections, when there are plenty           
 of materials to be counted that they can start earlier.  This would           
 preclude them from starting on the counting process any earlier.              
 Right now some absentee results come in three and four days after             
 the election.  His reading of this language is that if they can't             
 meet, then there wouldn't be any results of this election for 11              
 days.                                                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER suggested language as follows, "the state ballot              
 counting review shall begin as soon as practicable and no later               
 than 16 days after an election."                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE noted that this will probably change the                 
 fiscal note because the way it exists now is they can't begin until           
 11 days, now if it's changed to the day after the election, these             
 people would be on the payroll for 16 days.                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER disagreed because it says no later than.  This                
 process could start earlier.  He also added that the language as              
 soon as practicable gives them more flexibility.                              
                                                                               
 Number 112                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN suggested not using the word                       
 "practicable," but "shall begin after the election is completed" so           
 there isn't any issue of someone saying that the process should               
 have been started earlier.  The committee members continued to                
 hammer out additional language.                                               
                                                                               
 Number 171                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move amendment number 1 on             
 page 7, line 7 that the last two words of this sentence "no                   
 earlier" and the language on line 8 be deleted through and                    
 including the word "election" be deleted and in it's place "as soon           
 as practicable after the election is completed," be inserted.  The            
 amendment would read as follows:                                              
                                                                               
 "The state ballot counting review shall begin as soon as                      
 practicable after the election is completed and shall be continued            
 until completed."                                                             
                                                                               
 There being on objection, amendment number 1 passed.                          
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN made another language suggestion to the            
 legislation on page 4, line 4, he would insert before the phrase              
 "last two general elections," the words "either of."                          
                                                                               
 Number 235                                                                    
                                                                               
 MS. STRASBAUGH conceptually suggested that in order to address the            
 other concerns Representative Finkelstein had, they could say that            
 in the preceding four calendar years including the last two general           
 elections and get rid of the language, "in the last two general               
 elections."  She added that what they need is a four year period,             
 she didn't see limiting this to the general elections, but to all             
 other types of elections as well.                                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN withdrew his previous amendment and                
 offered Ms. Strasbaugh's suggestion and to change the language to             
 reflect any type of election in the last four years.  The                     
 participants then hammered out reflective language to this effect.            
 Essentially they would take out the phrase on line 4, page 4, "the            
 last two general elections" and reinsert the language, "a local,              
 regional school board, primary, special or general election" and              
 add to this sentence, "during the last 4 calendar years."                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN offered as amendment number 2 on page 4,           
 line 4 as follows:                                                            
                                                                               
 "...voted or appeared to vote in a local, regional school board,              
 primary, special, or general election during the last four calendar           
 years,..."                                                                    
                                                                               
 There being no objection, amendment number 2 was so moved.                    
                                                                               
 Number 463                                                                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER then referred to Section 20.  In the State Affairs            
 Committee meeting there were two Sections with substantive changes            
 and Section 20 is one of them. After reviewing this Chairman Porter           
 stated that this section was not substantive, but just an                     
 efficiency in existing procedure.  He said he didn't have a problem           
 reinserting this section from the original legislation which dealt            
 with absentee voting by personal representative.  There being no              
 objection to this proposal it was so moved, that the reinsertion of           
 Section 20 would be reflected as amendment number 3.                          
                                                                               
 Number 585                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE TOOHEY made a motion to move CSHB 349(STA) from the            
 Judiciary Committee with individual recommendations and a zero                
 fiscal note.  There being no objection, it was so moved.                      
                                                                               

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