Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/11/1995 10:02 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 HSTA - 02/11/95                                                               
 HB 132 - CANDIDATES FOR STATEWIDE BALLOT                                    
 Number 190                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE JERRY MACKIE, sponsor of House Bill 132, read his              
 sponsor statement:                                                            
 I introduced HB 132 to bring parity to the state's election                  
 process.  The principle provision of the bill is the                          
 requirement that all candidates for state elective office                     
 must enter the primary election contest.                                      
 Currently, any Alaskan citizen eligible for elective office                  
 may bypass the state's primary election and be placed                         
 directly on the general election ballot by a nominating                       
 petition.  In my view, this causes two inequities.  First,                    
 the voters are denied full knowledge at the onset of all                      
 contestants seeking election to a particular office.  Voter                   
 access to financial disclosure information of petition                        
 candidates is delayed until just two months before the                        
 general election.  Furthermore, voter exposure to petition                    
 candidates' views and positions on issues of public interest                  
 is many times limited and compressed.                                         
 The second inequity is that the petition process provides a                  
 short cut avenue to the general election ballot.  It thus                     
 acts as an incentive for citizens to get directly on the                      
 general election ballot, because it saves money and the                       
 campaign scrutiny by the electorate is short.  While                          
 independent candidates have occasionally won elective                         
 office, they more often act as spoilers to the competition                    
 between primary election winners.  In effect then, the two                    
 ballot, primary-general election system, designed to winnow                   
 the many candidates down to contests between the few, is                      
 subverted.  The infusion of petition candidates onto the                      
 general election ballot can make it an election system of                     
 few primary contests transcending into contests among the                     
 many in the general election.                                                 
 HB 132 would place all candidates before the electorate on                   
 an equal footing.  This is accomplished by requiring all                      
 candidates to be in the primary election.  Just as the top                    
 vote getter of each political group will move on to the                       
 general election ballot, so too will the top vote getter                      
 among all independent candidates for a particular elective                    
 office.  In this manner, the electorate will have an equal                    
 opportunity to view and assess all candidates for an                          
 elective office.  And each candidate will be equally                          
 challenged by the election process.                                           
 He continued that he was inspired to file this bill, not by any               
 personalities or individuals, but because of complaints that                  
 allowing candidates to enter the election after the primary                   
 doesn't give voters a chance to get familiar with the candidates,             
 their Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) reports, or their               
 campaign fund sources, and that it is confusing to the voters                 
 because they don't see their candidate's name on the ballot in                
 the primary.  He filed the bill with public interest, not                     
 political fallout, in mind.  The Speaker of the House is the                  
 bill's co-sponsor, which gives it a nonpartisan approach.                     
 Number 272                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER offered a scenario with a primary ballot                
 containing two Republicans, two Democrats, one Independent                    
 Republican, two Independent Democrats, one Green, and one AIP.                
 He asked if, after the primary, the general election ballot would             
 contain one Republican, one Democrat, the one Independent                     
 Republican who was unopposed, one Independent Democrat, one                   
 Green, and one AIP.                                                           
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE replied that would be correct, and that is              
 possible right now.  The only changes HB 132 would make is in not             
 allowing a candidate to bypass the primary and requiring all                  
 candidates to file by June 1.  He said he has no desire to                    
 restrict anyone's ability to run for office under any party name              
 as long as they get enough petition signatures, nor does he want              
 to rewrite election laws.  His aim is to create a level playing               
 Number 333                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES pointed out that some candidates do not designate a               
 party and instead run as a "small" i (for independent).  If                   
 several candidates do this, she asked if then only one would                  
 advance to the general election.                                              
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE replied this was correct.                               
 CHAIR JAMES said this means that by not choosing a party,                     
 candidates have, by default, chosen a "small" i designation,                  
 which is a very popular choice, and she feared this would                     
 discourage independent candidates from choosing to run as a                   
 "small" i so they could run unopposed.  She stated she really                 
 supports this bill, but wants to be sure they aren't eliminating              
 potential candidates.                                                         
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE clarified that the purpose of a primary                 
 election is to narrow the scope.  Under HB 132, all candidates                
 filing for office will be told by the Division of Elections that              
 if they don't declare a party it is possible they will be opposed             
 in the primary by other undeclared candidates.                                
 Number 400                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES noted that she has always been politically active and             
 recognizes the importance of affiliating with a party in order to             
 get the grassroots support, and the prime purpose of a primary is             
 for parties to select the candidates they want to support.                    
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE stated that his bill doesn't change this,               
 it only changes the filing deadline to June 1 instead of August 1             
 for all candidates.                                                           
 Number 442                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN observed this bill puts all potential                    
 nonrecognized parties on the same playing field with the                      
 recognized parties and keeps candidates from getting "blind                   
 sided" after the primary because all candidates are known early               
 on.  He supports the bill.                                                    
 Number 458                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER stated he supports the bill, and asked if a             
 closed primary would preclude the ability to pass a statute that              
 any candidate receiving 51 percent in the primary would be                    
 declared the winner.                                                          
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON cautioned that the primary often draws a              
 small number of voters, and that would make it possible for a                 
 candidate to get 51 percent of the vote with only one-quarter of              
 the voters.                                                                   
 Number 482                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE agreed, adding that often in a primary                  
 election, only 18-20 percent of registered voters vote,                       
 especially in rural areas where people are fishing in the summer.             
 He would be afraid of having the election outcome decided by 51               
 percent of 18 percent, essentially 9 percent of the registered                
 REPRESENTATIVE PORTER theorized that the lack of interest in the              
 primary is because it doesn't affect the selection process very               
 much, and if voters had to consider all primary candidates                    
 seriously, the turnout would be higher and more people would vote             
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE observed that, more than in any other                   
 state, Alaskans vote for the individual, and statistics show that             
 if someone votes for a candidate in the primary, he or she will               
 support that same candidate in the general election.  The closed              
 Republican primary can put Republican candidates at a                         
 disadvantage if they have a low number of votes in the primary.               
 Number 530                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON said she would like to see everyone file              
 in August so the whole process would be shortened, in some future             
 CHAIR JAMES agreed that the process is too long and too                       
 expensive, and suggested one general election with a run-off as               
 opposed to a primary and a general election.                                  
 Number 543                                                                    
 DAVID KOIVUNIEMI, acting Director, Division of Elections,                     
 responded to Representative Porter's question by stating that the             
 constitution requires the Governor and Lt. Governor to be elected             
 at a general election, even if they got 51 percent of the votes               
 in the primary, and that maybe it would only require a change in              
 the names of the election.  For the record, he stated that the                
 Division of Elections has a neutral position on HB 132, and that              
 it would have no fiscal impact.  He pointed out that the bill                 
 could create some interesting combinations during the general                 
 election, for example a candidate for Governor who did not                    
 designate a political party could be teamed with a candidate for              
 Lt. Governor who also did not designate a party, but the two                  
 could be philosophically and politically opposite.  But he stated             
 that is their choice, and they could avoid it by designating a                
 political group.                                                              
 Number 578                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS said he's gone through the process twice as             
 an Independent, and it is not easy.  He said he did not want to               
 sound self-serving, but he asked Dave to explain the process of               
 what this bill would require of someone wanting to run as an                  
 MR. KOIVUNIEMI answered that he would have to do exactly the same             
 thing as he currently does, though the filing deadline would                  
 change from August 1 to June 1.   He would still have to get                  
 signatures on his petition from one percent of the registered                 
 voters who voted in the last election, but he would appear on the             
 ballot twice, in the primary and the general elections.                       
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS stated that it would make it easier if he               
 were required to be on the primary ballot, because people get                 
 confused when they think he is running, but don't see his name on             
 the primary ballot.                                                           
 Number 615                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE reiterated that the only difference for an              
 Independent candidate would be the filing deadline of June 1 and              
 the appearance on two ballots instead of one, and all candidates              
 would fall under the same APOC reporting requirements which                   
 serves the best interest of the public.                                       
 MR. KOIVUNIEMI said this is true for all legislative candidates,              
 but candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor each would have to               
 file a petition.  Currently the Governor just designates a Lt.                
 Governor on the same petition, and this is deleted by HB 132, so              
 instead of 2,167 signatures on one petition they would have to                
 get that number on two petitions.                                             
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE said he believes this is good because each              
 candidate should have to be dedicated enough to get these                     
 Number 659                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE WILLIS asked for an explanation of how the                     
 different parties are categorized, and asked if all unrecognized              
 parties would be put under the banner of Independents.                        
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE replied no, that only those parties with                
 the exact same names would be lumped together.  This is the same              
 as current law.                                                               
 Number 675                                                                    
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON noted that although there is a zero                   
 fiscal note the bill has a Finance Committee referral.                        
 REPRESENTATIVE MACKIE said the bill has an automatic Finance                  
 Committee referral and will have to go there since the bill                   
 creates a major policy change and needs to be scrutinized by the              
 Finance Committee.                                                            
 REPRESENTATIVE ROBINSON moved that HB 132 be moved out of                     
 committee with individual recommendations and a zero fiscal note.             
 Hearing no objection, the motion passed.                                      
 CHAIR JAMES announced the next meeting would be a joint                       
 confirmation hearing Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. with Senate State                   
 Affairs in the House Finance Committee room.                                  
 Number 700                                                                    
 CHAIR JAMES adjourned the meeting at 11:45 p.m.                               

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