Legislature(1997 - 1998)

04/09/1998 08:13 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 257 - VOTING & ELECTIONS                                                    
Number 0038                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES announced the next order of business is HB 257, "An Act            
relating to voter qualification, disqualification, and                         
registration; to voter registration officials; to election notices;            
to mail elections; to certain voting procedures; to the                        
transportation of ballots; and to the official election pamphlet               
and certain immunity from liability regarding claims arising from              
publication of the official election pamphlet," sponsored by the               
House Rules Standing Committee.                                                
Number 0040                                                                    
GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Coordinator, Division of Elections, Office             
of the Lieutenant Governor, came before the committee to provide               
information on HB 257.  She stated the division has prepared a                 
draft committee statement dated April 7, 1998.                                 
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER made a motion to move proposed CSHB 257.                  
Number 0045                                                                    
CHAIR JAMES announced there being no objections CSHB 257 is before             
the committee.                                                                 
MS. FENUMIAI explained that the reason the bill is so large is that            
the Division of Elections is changing the term "questioned" ballot             
to "special review" ballot which they feel better reflects the true            
intent of the questioned ballot.                                               
MS. FENUMIAI pointed out other changes in the bill to current law              
are extending the deadline for absentee voting by fax to the day               
before the election.  Current statute is four days before the                  
election.  Increasing the deadline to 5:00 p.m. the day before                 
would then allow an extra opportunity for people to be able to                 
MS. FENUMIAI said the bill also is streamlining and improving the              
absentee by personal representative voting process.  It cuts down              
the number of steps between the personal representative, the                   
election official and the voter, it also cuts down on the number of            
times the people need to sign the confusing form.  In 1996 15                  
percent of the ballots that were voted absentee by personal                    
representative, were rejected for insufficient witnessing or Alaska            
signature.  Ms. Fenumiai said they feel the new process will                   
greatly improve that as well as add additional checks and balances             
on behalf of the personal representative.  She indicated they have             
to provide identification, sign a log, sign a log again when they              
return the ballot, provide the date and time when they returned the            
ballot.  She concluded, for the first time, the division would know            
the name of the personal representative, have an address, and have             
a form of identification which they presented.                                 
Number 0063                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JOE RYAN said this is the person can't make it out              
to vote and you send a personal representative out with the ballot             
and that representative brings the ballot back to the voting place.            
MS. FENUMIAI replied that's correct.                                           
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN asked how many people do this, in a ballpark               
MS. FENUMIAI responded in 1996 there was approximately 500 people              
that voted absentee by personal representative.                                
Number 0068                                                                    
MS. FENUMIAI mentioned there are additions in this bill that would             
allow the division - to give the division statutory authority to               
conduct an election with "optical scanning ballot tabulation"                  
technology.  She also noted there are also minor changes to the                
official election pamphlet statute, and an addition that would                 
allow for unemployment tax exemption to election workers who make              
less than one thousand dollars in a calendar year that is the                  
result of the balanced budget Act of 1997, in order to take                    
advantage of that the state needs to bring their laws into                     
compliance with the federal law.                                               
Number 0077                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE ETHAN BERKOWITZ suggested a proposed amendment to               
page 4, line 20, by adding "E-mail."                                           
     and the address, phone number and E-mail address of the                   
     election supervisor or supervisors for the judicial district              
     in which the notice is broadcast.                                         
CHAIR JAMES asked if there were objections.  There being none the              
amendment was unanimously adopted.                                             
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said, "Having been, along with Representative              
Berkowitz, through all the fine details of this that my changes I              
understand are special review takes the place of question ballots              
and the electronic voting, but the punch ballots will still be                 
available, will still be sorted, and kept in the original districts            
like they were, and so forth and so on, and there's a tally count              
to make sure that we don't come up with more absentee ballots than             
were sent out and we don't have more special review ballots than               
were originally calculated because these things some times grow in             
dark places, they've been known to, perhaps not in Alaska, but                 
Texas is notorious for 'dark ballot box' growing."                             
Number 0103                                                                    
MS. FENUMIAI remarked the process of what is now known as the                  
"question ballot process" would not change, they are just simply               
changing the term to "special review ballot."  The process the                 
Division of Elections has used in past elections will continue                 
according to the way they are written in statute.                              
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN pointed out they found a bunch of ballots in a             
box (tucked under something) that had already been counted.  He                
said fortunately they were in his favor.                                       
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said, "Me too."                                       
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said it makes one nervous.                                 
MS. FENUMIAI responded this bill does not change the process, it               
just simply changes the term.                                                  
Number 0112                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ referred to Section 39, AS 15.58.030(f):              
     A candidate's photograph must be five by seven inches in size             
     and must have been taken within the past five years.  The                 
     photograph must be limited to the head, neck, and shoulders of            
     the candidate.                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ said no one could ever explain why it had             
to be five by seven.  He pointed out it is an awkward size to get.             
MS. FENUMIAI wasn't able to respond.                                           
CHAIR JAMES asked Representative Berkowitz what would be the size              
he would like.                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ replied passport.                                     
MS. FENUMIAI remarked the passport size might be too small for the             
use of the official election pamphlet.  She assumes the publisher              
or the printer would then have to enlarge that.                                
Number 0122                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KIM ELTON stated he was previously in publishing and            
the five by seven is generally the minimum size a printer would                
want because of quality issues - when you try to enlarge them.  He             
asked why just five by seven instead of eight by ten or something              
CHAIR JAMES indicated she put a booklet together one time and said             
you do have to have consistency.                                               
REPRESENTATIVE RYAN said he has a scanner which he can scan any                
size photograph, enlarge it or reduce it in size, and enhance it,              
he can also print it on a colored printer with the quality of a                
photographic print.  He noted, if they are still using archaic                 
printing technology, he thinks they should come forward.                       
MS. FENUMIAI said they are removing the requirement for it to be               
black and white, they will take colored photos.                                
Number 0138                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE HODGINS said he concurs with Representative                     
Berkowitz and suggested a friendly amendment for the photograph to             
be bigger than a passport.                                                     
CHAIR JAMES said she is not comfortable changing it at this point              
in time since she has no knowledge of the technology that is used.             
REPRESENTATIVE BERKOWITZ asked if this could be checked into                   
because this may just have to do with old requirements rather than             
old technology.                                                                
CHAIR JAMES asked Ms. Fenumiai to take that request to the House               
Finance Standing Committee [HB 257's next referral].                           
MS. FENUMIAI said she would.                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE ELTON made a motion to move CSHB 257 with individual            
recommendations and attached zero fiscal note.  There being no                 
objections CSHB 257(STA) moved from the House State Affairs                    
Standing Committee                                                             

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