Legislature(2005 - 2006)CAPITOL 120

04/06/2005 01:00 PM House JUDICIARY

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HB 94 - ELECTIONS                                                                                                             
3:22:32 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR McGUIRE announced  that the next order of  business would be                                                              
HOUSE BILL NO.  94, "An Act relating to qualifications  of voters,                                                              
requirements and  procedures regarding independent  candidates for                                                              
President  and   Vice-President  of   the  United  States,   voter                                                              
registration  and voter registration  records, voter  registration                                                              
through  a power  of attorney,  voter  registration using  scanned                                                              
documents, voter  residence, precinct  boundary and  polling place                                                              
designation  and   modification,  recognized   political  parties,                                                              
voters  unaffiliated   with  a  political  party,   early  voting,                                                              
absentee  voting,  application  for  absentee  ballots  through  a                                                              
power  of  attorney,  or  by  scanned  documents,  ballot  design,                                                              
ballot  counting,  voting by  mail,  voting machines,  vote  tally                                                              
systems, initiative,  referendum, recall,  and definitions  in the                                                              
Alaska  Election Code;  relating to  incorporation elections;  and                                                              
providing  for an  effective  date."   [Before  the committee  was                                                              
CSHB 94(STA), which had been amended on 3/21/05.]                                                                               
3:23:55 PM                                                                                                                    
RANDY  RUEDRICH,   Chair,  Alaskan  Republican  Party,   said  the                                                              
state's   [AccuVote-Optical  Scan]   is   extremely  accurate   at                                                              
counting  ballots that  are properly  prepared, though  incomplete                                                              
ballots  are  rejected.     Recounts  requested   by  the  Alaskan                                                              
Republican Party  have only  changed about 1  vote per  10,000, he                                                              
said,  and opined  that because  Alaska's standards  are 50  times                                                              
more lenient  [than other states],  if someone requests  a special                                                              
recount,  that person  or entity  should pay  for it  in full.   A                                                              
recount  can be  whatever a  person wants  it to  be, including  a                                                              
full  hand   recount,  he   said,  making   the  costs   extremely                                                              
MR. RUEDRICH  said  that democracy  only works  if people  care to                                                              
vote, and  the state  has done many  things to  make it  easier to                                                              
vote, but  it is still difficult  to encourage voter turnout.   He                                                              
encouraged  the  legislature  to  keep the  process  easy  for  an                                                              
absentee  voter,  because  traveling residents  need  the  process                                                              
that is set up now.                                                                                                             
3:27:28 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA said he  has a problem  with the  practice of                                                              
the parties  pre-checking the  party affiliation  of the  voter on                                                              
absentee ballot  applications, which the Alaskan  Republican Party                                                              
does  now.   He  said  he  doesn't approve  of  political  parties                                                              
telling a voter  what party he or she belongs to.   Representative                                                              
Gara  asked  Mr.  Ruedrich  if   he  would  support  an  amendment                                                              
prohibiting that practice.                                                                                                      
MR.  RUEDRICH  said, "I  think  your  point is  fairly  nebulous,"                                                              
adding  that the  Alaskan  Republican Party  does  it because  the                                                              
party gets  its information  from the  Division of Elections,  and                                                              
pointed out that the voter can change that checkmark.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE GARA  said the form  currently has a list  of empty                                                              
boxes,  and  noted that  parties  send  out forms  to  independent                                                              
voters as well  as their own party  members.  "Why not  just leave                                                              
the box  blank so  the voter can  fill it  out?" he asked,  adding                                                              
that the  Division of Elections  leaves those boxes empty  so that                                                              
the voter can decide.                                                                                                           
MR. RUEDRICH  said,  "We provide  exactly what  is on the  state's                                                              
file data  to the voter  so they have  an opportunity  to validate                                                              
and, if they desire,  correct that piece of information."   If the                                                              
voter  is non-partisan,  that  corresponding  box  is checked,  he                                                              
said, adding that his party is just providing a service.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  GARA asked  him  if he  would  mind not  providing                                                              
that service.                                                                                                                   
MR. RUEDRICH  opined that such would  not be in the  best interest                                                              
of the voters, adding, "I do not think we should change that."                                                                  
3:31:55 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  PAUL SEATON,  Alaska  State Legislature,  speaking                                                              
as chair  of the House State  Affairs Standing Committee,  said he                                                              
would comment  on the Division  of Election's suggested  amendment                                                              
that  proposes to  alter pages  29 and  30 of  CSHB 94(STA);  that                                                              
amendment read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                 
     Page 29, line 12:                                                                                                          
          Following "after a general election"                                                                                  
          Delete "at which a governor was elected"                                                                              
     Page 29, line 20:                                                                                                          
          Following "general election"                                                                                          
          Delete "at which a governor was elected"                                                                            
     Page 29, line 23:                                                                                                          
          Following "GENERAL ELECTION];"                                                                                        
          Insert "or"                                                                                                           
     Page 29, lines 29 - 30:                                                                                                    
          Following "general election:                                                                                        
       Delete "or at the most recent general election at                                                                    
     which a governor was elected"                                                                                            
     Page 30, line 2:                                                                                                           
          Following [SENATOR AT THAT GENERAL ELECTION;OR]                                                                       
          Insert "or"                                                                                                           
     Page 30, following line 7:                                                                                                 
       Delete "or at the most recent general election at                                                                      
     which a governor was elected"                                                                                            
     Page 30, line 11:                                                                                                          
          Following "registered in the state"                                                                                 
             Delete "on March 31 of the most recent                                                                           
     election year"                                                                                                           
             Insert "in the month that the director                                                                           
     performs verification of party status as set out in AS                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON  noted  that   the  House  State   Affairs                                                              
Standing Committee  worked hard to protect political  parties from                                                              
becoming disqualified  [because  of efforts made  by others].   He                                                              
said a political  party qualifies as such if it gets  a vote of at                                                              
least 3 percent  in the gubernatorial, U.S. Senate,  or U.S. House                                                              
of Representatives  race, and that  party will still  be qualified                                                              
through  the  next gubernatorial  election.    "This is  part  and                                                              
parcel with a lawsuit  that was filed," he said,  and it was taken                                                              
care  of in the  bill that  came out  of the  House State  Affairs                                                              
Standing Committee.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON said the  aforementioned amendment  changes                                                              
things so  that if a party  received 10 percent  of the vote  in a                                                              
gubernatorial election,  and then no one ran under  that party for                                                              
the  U.S. Congress  seat during  the next  "interim" election,  an                                                              
"impostor"  could file  under that  party and  never campaign  and                                                              
not get the  required 3 percent of  the vote.  He said  the intent                                                              
of the  House State Affairs Standing  Committee was to  continue a                                                              
party's qualified  status until  the next gubernatorial  election.                                                              
If  the  party  got  the  required   votes  at  the  next  interim                                                              
election,   it  would   be  qualified   only   through  the   next                                                              
gubernatorial election but not an extra two years, he explained.                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  said that  he  talked  to people  in  many                                                              
political parties  and everybody was satisfied [with  the language                                                              
in CSHB 94(STA)].   Referring to the aforementioned  amendment, he                                                              
asked  the  House  Judiciary  Standing  Committee  to  reject  the                                                              
language that  proposes a change to  page 29, line 12;  reject the                                                              
language  that proposes  a change  to  Page 29,  lines 29-30;  and                                                              
reject the  language that  proposes to  change page 30,  following                                                              
line 7.                                                                                                                         
CHAIR  McGUIRE   surmised  that  what  Representative   Seaton  is                                                              
proposing  is that  if a  party  qualifies either  under the  U.S.                                                              
Congress  election  or  under  the   gubernatorial  election,  the                                                              
qualification would last another full four years.                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said, "For the full four at  the end of the                                                              
CHAIR McGUIRE said that's when the party re-qualifies.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE   SEATON   added,  "So   parties   would  only   be                                                              
disqualified   at  the  certification   after  the   gubernatorial                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  said he'd talked  with all the  parties and                                                              
people  who  were  involved  in   the  lawsuit,  and  was  of  the                                                              
understanding that  the language that came out of  the House State                                                              
Affairs Standing  Committee solved  the problem.   He  opined that                                                              
the  date  change  proposed by  the  aforementioned  amendment  is                                                              
3:40:43 PM                                                                                                                    
NINA MOLLETT spoke of the amendment labeled 24-GH1048\G.12,                                                                     
Kurtz, 2/11/05, which read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                     
     Page 8, following line 12:                                                                                                 
          Insert a new bill section to read:                                                                                    
        "* Sec. 15.  AS 15.20.450 is amended to read:                                                                       
          Sec. 15.20.450.  Requirements of deposit and                                                                      
     recount cost.   The application  must include  a deposit                                                               
     in cash,  by certified check,  or by bond with  a surety                                                                   
     approved  by the director.   The  amount of the  deposit                                                                   
     is $2,500 [$300]  for each precinct, $10,000  [$750] for                                                           
     each  house  district,  and $50,000  [$10,000]  for  the                                                               
     entire  state.  If  the recount  includes an office  for                                                                   
     which   candidates   received  a   tie   vote,  or   the                                                                   
     difference between  the number of  votes cast was  20 or                                                                   
     less or  was less  than .5 percent  of the total  number                                                                   
     of votes cast  for the two candidates for  the contested                                                                   
     office,  or a question  or proposition  for which  there                                                                   
     was a tie  vote on the issue, or the  difference between                                                                   
     the number of  votes cast in favor of or opposed  to the                                                                   
     issue  was 20 or  less or  was less  than .5 percent  of                                                                   
     the  total votes  cast in  favor  of or  opposed to  the                                                                   
     issue, the application  need not include a  deposit, and                                                                   
     the state  shall bear the cost  of the recount.   If, on                                                                   
     the recount,  a candidate other  than the candidate  who                                                                   
     received the  original election certificate  is declared                                                                   
     elected, or if  the vote on recount is determined  to be                                                                   
     four percent or  more in excess of the vote  reported by                                                                   
     the  state review  for the  candidate  applying for  the                                                                   
     recount  or in favor  of or opposed  to the question  or                                                                   
     proposition  as stated  in the  application, the  entire                                                                   
     deposit  shall be refunded.   If  the entire deposit  is                                                                   
     not  refunded,  the  director  shall  refund  any  money                                                                   
     remaining after  the cost of  the recount has  been paid                                                                   
     from the  deposit.  If the  cost of the  recount exceeds                                                               
     the amount of  the deposit, the recount  applicant shall                                                               
     pay  the remainder  upon notification  by  the state  of                                                               
     the amount due."                                                                                                       
     Renumber the following bill sections accordingly.                                                                          
     Page 21, line 4:                                                                                                           
          Delete "secs. 20 - 43"                                                                                                
          Insert "secs. 21 - 44"                                                                                                
MS. MOLLETT said  she doesn't think anyone questions  the accuracy                                                              
of  voting machines,  but  voting  fraud has  occurred  throughout                                                              
history, and  a good  election system is  designed to  prevent it.                                                              
This should  be a  nonpartisan issue,  but nationwide,  [citizens]                                                              
are more  worried currently  about election integrity.   It  is up                                                              
to  the party  in power  to  reassure the  other  parties and  all                                                              
voters that elections  are being run fairly, she said.   Alaska is                                                              
doing  better than  most states,  she opined,  but Amendment  G.12                                                              
will degrade  its model  system.   She noted  that Amendment  G.12                                                              
would  raise the  cost  of one  type of  recount  from $10,000  to                                                              
$50,000.    She  said  that  she  was  one  of  the  citizens  who                                                              
requested  the last  U.S. Senate  race recount,  that it was  very                                                              
hard  to  raise  $10,000  in  five days,  and  that  it  would  be                                                              
impossible  to raise $50,000.   She  added that  it would  also be                                                              
very  hard  for the  average  House  district candidate  to  raise                                                              
$10,000 for a recount as is being proposed via Amendment G.12.                                                                  
MS.   MOLLETT  said   she   favors   an  amendment   proposed   by                                                              
Representative  Gara, which  would require  a random hand  recount                                                              
of  one precinct  in  every district  after  every election;  that                                                              
amendment read [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                 
     Page 10, following line 14                                                                                                 
          Insert new bill sections to read:                                                                                     
     "*Sec. 13. AS 15.15.420 is amended to read:                                                                              
          Sec. 15.15.420.  Duty to review the ballot                                                                          
     counting.   The director  shall review  the counting  of                                                                 
     the ballots  with the assistance of and in  the presence                                                                   
     of  the state  ballot counting  review board  [APPOINTED                                                               
     REPRESENTATIVES FROM THE POLITICAL PARTIES].                                                                               
     *Sec. 14. AS 15.15.430 is amended to read:                                                                               
          Sec. 15.15.430.  Scope of the review of ballot                                                                      
     counting.  (a) The review 10   of  ballot  counting   by                                                                 
     the director shall include only [A REVIEW OF]                                                                              
          (1) a review of the precinct registers, tallies,                                                                  
     and ballots case; [AND]                                                                                                    
          (2) a review of absentee and questioned ballots                                                                   
     as prescribed by law; and                                                                                              
          (3) a hand count of ballots from one or more                                                                      
     randomly  selected precincts  in each election  district                                                               
     that accounts  for at least five percent of  the ballots                                                               
     cast in that district.                                                                                                 
          (b)  If, following the ballot review set out in                                                                       
     (a)  of   this  section,  the   director  18   finds  an                                                                   
     unexplained  discrepancy  in  the ballot  count  in  any                                                                   
     precinct, the  director may count the ballots  from that                                                                   
     precinct.   If there is a  discrepancy of more  than one                                                               
     percent  between the  results  of the  hand count  under                                                               
     (a)(3) of  this section and  the count certified  by the                                                               
     election  board,  the  director  shall  conduct  a  hand                                                               
     count of the  ballots from that district.   The director                                                               
     shall certify  in writing to  the state ballot  counting                                                                   
     review  board and  publish  on the  division's  Internet                                                               
     website  any  changes  resulting   from  a  [THE]  count                                                           
     performed under this subsection."                                                                                      
     Instructions to Legislative Legal:                                                                                         
     Make    corresponding     amendments    and     renumber                                                                   
MS.  MOLLETT said  experts  in computer  voting  have been  urging                                                              
states to  adopt routine  hand recounts  after every election  for                                                              
quality  assurance.    There  have  been  profound  problems  with                                                              
elections over  the past few years,  and there were  about 100,000                                                              
voter complaints  in the last national  election, she noted.   She                                                              
said this  is a  good time  to be  strengthening Alaska's  system,                                                              
not weakening  it.   Other states  are looking  at what  Alaska is                                                              
doing right, and  if the legislature passes Amendment  G.12, trust                                                              
in  the election  system will  decline; in  contrast, passing  the                                                              
aforementioned  amendment  pertaining  to recounts  will  increase                                                              
that trust, she concluded.                                                                                                      
3:44:17 PM                                                                                                                    
JIM SYKES  said he has been  working on election laws  since 1990,                                                              
and  characterized  HB 94  as  basically a  good  bill.   He  said                                                              
proposed subparagraph  (D) of Section 52 of CSHB  94(STA) provides                                                              
another avenue for  political party recognition via  registering 2                                                              
percent of the  total number of registered voters,  but previously                                                              
it was  a number equal  to 3 percent of  the governor's race.   He                                                              
noted it  is difficult to  form or keep  a small party  alive, and                                                              
even the  common 1 percent  standard is  extremely high.   He said                                                              
many  states  have  much  lower   standards,  gave  examples,  and                                                              
suggested that  a standard of  only 1,000 registered  voters would                                                              
be much [better].                                                                                                               
MR.  SYKES said  he  is offering  legally  defensible language  to                                                              
simplify the current  law, to recognize the extreme  difficulty of                                                              
registering voters to  a political party.  He said  the proposed 2                                                              
percent language  is not legally  defensible because  "it actually                                                              
means more than  a 30 percent rise in what the  requirement was in                                                              
MR. SYKES  said an  accurate voting  machine doesn't guarantee  an                                                              
accurate vote  count, and he spoke  of a 1994 election  where vote                                                              
results were  misreported.   He said  the reason  to do  a recount                                                              
verification  is to find  out whether  a machine worked  properly,                                                              
whether  there was  a programming  error, or  whether there  was a                                                              
hacking attempt.   He said currently  only 3 precincts  out of 439                                                              
are checked,  and this "is almost  an invitation to hackers."   He                                                              
stated  that  one  precinct  hand count  in  each  district  would                                                              
eliminate any  serious hacking attempts.   Mr. Sykes,  noting that                                                              
there is  a proposed amendment  that would  raise the amount  of a                                                              
deposit required  for a  recount, said he  believes that  is fair,                                                              
but it would need  to be balanced by making sure  that there is no                                                              
reason for anyone to want to ask for a recount.                                                                                 
MR.  SYKES   requested  prohibiting   the  pre-marking   of  party                                                              
affiliations  on absentee  ballots  because the  ballot becomes  a                                                              
voter  registration  form.   He  then  spoke  of the  1982  Alaska                                                              
Supreme Court  case, Vogler  v. Miller,  as the guiding  principle                                                            
for  political parties,  and noted  that  the court  in that  case                                                              
said:   "only a  regulation that  impinges on  the right  to speak                                                              
and associate  to the  least degree  possible consistent  with the                                                              
state's legitimate  goals  will pass constitutional  muster."   He                                                              
mentioned  that  Alaska's  nominating  petition  only  requires  1                                                              
percent  of the  number  of people  who  voted  in the  governor's                                                              
race.   "That would  be the  standard  I think that  we should  go                                                              
to," he concluded.                                                                                                              
CHAIR McGUIRE  relayed that  [CSHB 94(STA),  as amended]  would be                                                              
set aside.                                                                                                                      

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