Legislature(1999 - 2000)

03/30/1999 08:07 AM STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 141-PREFERENTIAL VOTING                                                                                                      
Number 087                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES announced SSHB 141, "An Act providing for preferential                                                              
voting in state and local elections," is before the committee.                                                                  
Number 103                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON moved to adopt CSSSHB 141, version LS0669\K,                                                              
Kurtz, 3/25/99, as the working document before the committee.                                                                   
There being no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                    
Number 116                                                                                                                      
KELLY SULLIVAN, Secretary to Representative Pete Kott, read the                                                                 
following sponsor statement:                                                                                                    
     Alaska has a history of electing minority candidates who                                                                   
     collected a plurality of votes cast, but not a majority.  The                                                              
     underlined principle of a democratic form of government is                                                                 
     that the majority rules.  So, HB 141 - it eliminates the                                                                   
     possibility of having a minority candidate win an election and                                                             
     it forces a 50 percent plus one of the votes cast.                                                                         
     An example of a minority candidate winning an election would                                                               
     be a three-way race in which no candidate received over 50                                                                 
     percent of the votes cast.  House Bill 141 allows a voter to                                                               
     prioritize their preferences by ranking each candidate with                                                                
     their first, second and third choice.  If no candidate                                                                     
     received over 50 percent of the votes cast from the first                                                                  
     tally of the votes, then the candidate with the least votes                                                                
     would be eliminated, and the second choice votes would then be                                                             
     distributed for remaining candidates.  Then the votes would be                                                             
     retabulated using a ranking system in state.  Local and                                                                    
     federal elections would ensure that the winning candidate                                                                  
     received at least 50 percent of the votes cast - and to keep                                                               
     going until you get a majority of the votes.                                                                               
     The bill goes into some length to explain the procedures                                                                   
     necessary to manage the preferential style of voting.  It's                                                                
     the sponsor's belief that this is going to be a more fair and                                                              
     more democratic process than our current system of voting.                                                                 
Number 190                                                                                                                      
MS. SULLIVAN drew the committee members' attention to a video which                                                             
describes the preferential voting system [seven minutes long].                                                                  
Number 350                                                                                                                      
ROBERT RICHIE, Executive Director, Center for Voting and Democracy                                                              
(the organization that produced the video) testified via                                                                        
teleconference from Washington, D.C.  He stated that the center is                                                              
a national organization which is focusing on researching and                                                                    
disseminating information on how election systems affect voter                                                                  
turnout, governance and representation.  He noted that the                                                                      
organization focuses in particular on how to reform plurality                                                                   
elections in ways that will better promote majority rule and higher                                                             
participation.  Mister Richie mentioned the center is a 501(c)(3)                                                               
education organization.                                                                                                         
MR. RICHIE said he has been the executive director of the Center                                                                
for Voting and Democracy since 1992 and some of the activities that                                                             
he has engaged in are listed in his prepared testimony [included in                                                             
the packet].                                                                                                                    
MR. RICHIE read the following testimony:                                                                                        
     Regarding HB 141, I'm not going to presume to tell you whether                                                             
     preferential voting is the ideal system for Alaska.  But, I                                                                
     can discuss the following matters with great confidence: how                                                               
     preferential voting works; the history of the system; how and                                                              
     why preferential voting is gathering growing support in other                                                              
     states and around the world and the specific matters relating                                                              
     to the bill before you; some matters of statutory language and                                                             
     also relating to the constitutionality of using preferential                                                               
     voting for federal elections.  And I do want to stress that                                                                
     our center is prepared to do whatever we can to be helpful and                                                             
     to answer any questions today, or those that come out of the                                                               
Number 385                                                                                                                      
     How preferential voting works                                                                                              
     Preferential voting is a well-established voting system for                                                                
     electing a single winner from a field of candidates for a                                                                  
     particular office.                                                                                                         
     Each of these names suggests how the system works.  ...                                                                    
     "Preferential voting" describes what voters do in a case of                                                                
     expressing their preferences. The "alternative vote" makes                                                                 
     sense because voters have an alternative selection if their                                                                
     first choice candidate is too weak to win.  And then of                                                                    
     course, "instant runoff voting" derives from the fact that the                                                             
     method of voting simulates a runoff election.                                                                              
     The experience of other nations using preferential voting                                                                  
     shows that the system is quite easy for voters.  Voters of                                                                 
     course have the option to vote just as they do now, ranking                                                                
     only one candidate, but they have additional options that in                                                               
     many ways make voting easier for them.  They don't have to                                                                 
     make some of the calculations that they might have to make                                                                 
     when they only had one vote about candidate viability and the                                                              
     prospect of wasting their vote.  Instead they have every                                                                   
     incentive to simply vote for their favorite candidate first,                                                               
     next favorite second and so on because they know that their                                                                
     ballot can still count toward a winner if their first choice                                                               
Number 419                                                                                                                      
     There are strong arguments in favor of the system.  Just some                                                              
     of them that we'd like to stress are that it does create a                                                                 
     mandate for the winner through that candidate's accumulation                                                               
     of a majority of the vote.  It reduces the number of votes                                                                 
     cast for losing candidates maximizing the number of votes that                                                             
     will count for a winner.  It increases the number of choices                                                               
     available to voters.  And the combination of all of that I                                                                 
     think tends to boost voter turnout.                                                                                        
     As an additional argument, I think particularly pertinent to                                                               
     its adoption in primary elections, preferential voting                                                                     
     undercuts the worst abuses of negative campaigning, as                                                                     
     candidates will be aware that they may need to be the                                                                      
     second-choice of supporters of other candidates.                                                                           
     And finally, note that while preferential voting simulates a                                                               
     runoff, it has definitive advantages over the traditional                                                                  
     two-round runoffs.  Two-round runoffs basically require                                                                    
     taxpayers to fund for a second election; they can vary greatly                                                             
     in voter turnout and enthusiasm between the fist and second                                                                
     rounds; and it can force candidates and organizations to have                                                              
     to mobilize their supporters twice rather than get it all done                                                             
     at one time.                                                                                                               
     The history of preferential voting                                                                                         
     [Available in the committee packet].                                                                                       
Number 460                                                                                                                      
     The recent rise in interest in preferential voting                                                                         
     I think that, as we are able to handle these matters of                                                                    
     election administration and ballot counting better and better,                                                             
     there seems to be a real dramatic rise in interest in the                                                                  
     United States. ... Vermont is a particularly, I think, a good                                                              
     case.  There are particular reasons why preferential voting                                                                
     makes sense there [mock elections were held in the schools].                                                               
     The gist of it is, is they have a majority requirement in the                                                              
     constitution for statewide offices, and if no candidate wins                                                               
     a majority then the legislature has to elect that office.  And                                                             
     they've just gone to a campaign finance system that will                                                                   
     probably make it easier for a minor party and independent                                                                  
     candidates to run more strongly and thus join more and more of                                                             
     the states that are already electing plurality governors.  But                                                             
     in the case of Vermont - that would lead to the legislature                                                                
     actually having to elect the office - and there was a                                                                      
     commission that was formed last year by the legislature, which                                                             
     at the end of its work, made a unanimous recommendation to go                                                              
     to preferential voting for both federal and statewide                                                                      
     elections in Vermont.  And the bill is being looked at closely                                                             
     this year, and I think there is a very decent prospect of its                                                              
     adoption there.                                                                                                            
     There also was a very strong interest this year in New Mexico                                                              
     where the state senate passed a constitutional amendment very                                                              
     similar to your HB 141.  And we also know of legislation that                                                              
     has been introduced (or will be introduced) in Massachusetts,                                                              
     North Carolina, Organ, Pennsylvania, and Texas.  And I think                                                               
     there are going to be others as well this year - and this is                                                               
     all new because this is something that a lot of people hadn't                                                              
     heard of, just two or three years ago.  But I think it's a                                                                 
     system that the more people hear about it, it seems the more                                                               
     that they think it's a good system worthy of discussion and                                                                
     perhaps implementation.  And I think that our times have                                                                   
     created conditions where that might be particularly true, the                                                              
     shrinking of voter turnout, a rise in participation of minor                                                               
     party and independent candidates.  And I think perhaps an                                                                  
     excessive degree of negative campaigning that is driving good                                                              
     people from participation in politics.  [Mr. Ritchie referred                                                              
     to mock elections being held in schools and colleges in                                                                    
     My written testimony does get into the matter of its legality                                                              
     for federal elections and also a few suggestions for changes                                                               
     you might want to consider in the actual language of the bill.                                                             
     [Included in the packet].                                                                                                  
Number 520                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if people can be targeted, "vote once,                                                                
vote for me."                                                                                                                   
MR. RITCHIE replied HB 141 really doesn't because you don't get any                                                             
edge out of being someone's only choice.  He explained that the                                                                 
ballot will only go onto another choice if you're the weakest                                                                   
candidate in the filed with the fewest votes.  If you urge your                                                                 
supporters not to rank anyone second that simply means that if you                                                              
are dropped during the course of the count, that the ballot cast                                                                
for you won't go to help decide the rest of the field.  However, it                                                             
does help the candidate that has both core support and the capacity                                                             
to pick up any transfer votes from a weak candidate.                                                                            
MR. RITCHIE said, "A key point to make is that quite often the                                                                  
mechanism of transfers will not kick in.  When they used this                                                                   
system in Australia ... and they've had it for many years, voters                                                               
had a lot of opportunity to look at non-major party candidates.  It                                                             
certainly kicks in sometimes, but the majority of races are won                                                                 
right on the first count - so the winner just gets more than 50                                                                 
percent of first choices and that's that.  But if we're already                                                                 
seeing more and more races won by plurality, and certainly Alaska                                                               
is one of many states where we've seen a lot of plurality victories                                                             
in key races, that's where the system really can do a service to                                                                
voters by giving them a chance to get their majority winner."                                                                   
Number 561                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN said preferential voting tends to favor the                                                                 
candidate that receives the most single votes.                                                                                  
MR. RITCHIE replied that the candidate is in the best position to                                                               
win, but if they don't have a majority of the votes they also have                                                              
to pick up second and third choices from other voters.  He                                                                      
indicated that it doesn't reward them any more than the current                                                                 
system.  And in some ways it better assures that their candidate                                                                
can also reach out and gain the support of voters, voters beyond                                                                
their core support.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE HUDSON asked if preferential voting would increase                                                               
a voter turnout.                                                                                                                
MR. RITCHIE indicated that it seems to increase turnouts in a                                                                   
longstanding way, however, it is sometimes hard to do cross-country                                                             
comparisons.  He said the general perception among political                                                                    
scientists is that this will draw more voters to the poll.                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY asked if Vermont has had an increased voter                                                              
MR. RITCHIE pointed out that those were actually mock elections.                                                                
He noted that the legislation that was introduced last year to                                                                  
implement the system in Vermont was not enacted.                                                                                
Number 637                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY clarified that no states have passed or                                                                  
adopted a preferential voting system.                                                                                           
MR. RITCHIE confirmed that no state currently uses the system.                                                                  
It's gone from being a system which is being discussed much in                                                                  
other countries and used in some, however not really talked about                                                               
in the U.S. to a really dramatic rise in interest.  It's all been                                                               
in the last two or three years that any legislation has been                                                                    
introduced anywhere in the U.S.                                                                                                 
CHAIR JAMES announced that former Representative Fritz Pettyjohn is                                                             
observing in Anchorage.                                                                                                         
Number 658                                                                                                                      
GAIL FENUMIAI, Election Program Specialist, Division of Elections,                                                              
Office of the Lieutenant Governor, testified that there are                                                                     
technical problems with HB 141.  She said the division believes                                                                 
that the present version is not workable with current law and                                                                   
current voting equipment.  Furthermore, there also would be a need                                                              
to make numerous internal policy calls which need to be discussed                                                               
and determined at greater lengths.  Therefore, the Division of                                                                  
Elections doesn't see the voting method being easy on anyone; the                                                               
voters, the election board workers (whether you're in a hand-count                                                              
precinct or you're in an electronically counted precinct).                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI stated, "The first thing I would like to comment on is                                                             
that our new ballot tabulation system, that was purchased last year                                                             
for the tune of approximately $2 million, cannot accommodate this                                                               
type of voting method without some significant modification."  She                                                              
said Larry Engsminger, Global Election Systems, can testify as to                                                               
what modifications might be needed, how long it would take, and to                                                              
the cost.                                                                                                                       
MS. FENUMIAI said she had been in contact with the election office                                                              
in Vermont and pointed out that Vermont's legislation on                                                                        
preferential voting has pretty much been stalled in the House of                                                                
Representatives.  When she discussed this with them, a week or so                                                               
ago, they informed her that they did not foresee it moving.  A                                                                  
similar bill was also introduced in Vermont in the previous session                                                             
but did not either.  Ms. Fenumiai explained that New Mexico's                                                                   
version of preferential voting did pass the state Senate, however,                                                              
(they have a voting system which is direct recording equipment)                                                                 
there's no way that voting system could be accommodated at all to                                                               
move to this type of system.  She was informed the committee that                                                               
it would cost $8- to $12 million to purchase new voting equipment                                                               
to be able to do that [New Mexico].                                                                                             
Number 687                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI noted that Section 2 leads the division to believe                                                                 
that the redistribution of ballots is to be done at the precinct                                                                
level on election night.  However, this is not possible due to the                                                              
fact that not all of the ballots have even been counted or received                                                             
by the division because the question voting process (in which the                                                               
review process does not begin until the sixth day following the                                                                 
election) can take up to 15 days to complete.  She emphasized that                                                              
absentees by mail ballots and absentee in person ballots have not                                                               
all been reviewed and counted on election night, and that can be                                                                
taken up the fifteenth day following the election.                                                                              
MS. FENUMIAI referred the 1996 general election.  She said there                                                                
were more than 35,000 absentee ballots and more than 16,000                                                                     
question ballots which still needed to be reviewed and eligibility                                                              
of count to be determined.  In the 1998 general election there were                                                             
more than 27,000 absentee ballots and almost 16,000 question                                                                    
ballots that still needed to be reviewed.  In the general election                                                              
of 1998 it took Talkeetna until approximately 5:00 a.m. to tabulate                                                             
694 ballots.  She explained this system was done by marking one                                                                 
tally for each race and not having to mark a tally and then go back                                                             
to redistribute and recount the ballots.                                                                                        
MS. FENUMIAI emphasized that the Division of Elections believes                                                                 
asking workers, who have been there since 6:00 a.m., to stay on                                                                 
election night and hand-count precincts would be detrimental and                                                                
perhaps lead to more problems.  For instance, the division realized                                                             
last year that hand-counting was less reliable than the electronic                                                              
Number 715                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI indicated that the proponents are saying, "This is an                                                              
easy method and would be easily accepted by the voters."  She said                                                              
that may be true in other states, it also may be true in Australia                                                              
where this has been going on for 100 years, but in Alaska voters                                                                
are use to doing it the way they've always done it - by making a                                                                
mark for one candidate.  She said, "We fell that not only would it                                                              
be an educational campaign (indisc.) need to be conducted in mass                                                               
for the voters, also, it would require an extensive revamping of                                                                
the division's training to election boards.  And we already train                                                               
election boards in 453 precincts in a very compressed time frame                                                                
(between June and the end of July) in order to get them ready for                                                               
the primary election."                                                                                                          
MS. FENUMIAI noted that there may be confusion due to the way HB
141 is written.  She said the division also feels that the boards                                                               
would have to count ballots in three different methods.  They would                                                             
be counting ballots in one way for the primary, one way for the                                                                 
general election, and if the municipalities do not choose to go                                                                 
forth with this type of voting method they would have to go back to                                                             
counting ballots in the normal fashion by tally one mark per race.                                                              
She mentioned the same workers are also used for the local                                                                      
Number 735                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI said the division feels that it would take the voters                                                              
longer to vote the ballot and could perhaps increase the number of                                                              
spoiled ballots thus require more ballots to be printed.  She                                                                   
informed the committee that many complaints came in during the                                                                  
general election of 1998 of how long it took voters to vote due to                                                              
the fact that the ballot it was such a long ballot.  Furthermore,                                                               
the more times ballots are handled, the more chances are that marks                                                             
can be smudged and could lead to ballots having to be remarked.                                                                 
She also stressed that this could lead to an increase in ballot                                                                 
printing costs due to the complexity of the ballot layout.                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI referred to Section 7, page 5, which reads:                                                                        
     The director shall include instructions on primary election                                                                
     ballots directing the voter to mark candidates for an office                                                               
     within a single political party in order of preference and to                                                              
     mark as many choices as the voter wishes within a single                                                                   
     political party, but not to assign a particular ranking to                                                                 
     more than one candidate or to rank candidates more than one                                                                
Number 745                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI explained that Section 7 limits how voters can mark                                                                
votes for a candidate in a primary election.  She said it is                                                                    
essentially saying that once you mark a vote for a Green candidate                                                              
that you can only rank candidates within that party.  This is in a                                                              
sense making Alaska's primary a closed primary.  She noted that the                                                             
division has asked the Department of Law to look into this.                                                                     
MS. FENUMIAI indicated that HB 141 has many unanswered questions;                                                               
how to interpret other sections in Title 15 regarding not much                                                                  
guidance to ballot layouts; how the ballot would be designed; how                                                               
to deal with special advanced ballots that are mailed to overseas                                                               
voters (60 days before the election); and how to deal with write-in                                                             
candidates.  She said, "If write-in candidates have the least                                                                   
number in a general election, have the least number of first-choice                                                             
votes (we don't normally count write-in candidates) would we be                                                                 
required to count all the write-in candidates; and then                                                                         
redistribute votes for the candidate who got one vote; and then                                                                 
move up to the candidate who got three votes; and then move up to                                                               
the candidate who got 25 votes?  That's an unanswered question."                                                                
MS. FENUMIAI stated that there is no standard method of                                                                         
preferential voting - as mentioned there are many different flavors                                                             
out there.  So, what works in one state is not necessarily going to                                                             
be the same method that has been introduced in Alaska.                                                                          
Number 770                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI referred to Section 3 which reads:                                                                                 
     In addition, a voter may mark a ballot by the use of roman and                                                             
     Arabic numerals that are clearly spaced in one of the squares                                                              
     opposite the name of the candidate that the voter desires to                                                               
MS. FENUMIAI explained that the ballot scanner tabulates ballots                                                                
only based on the amount of light and darkness and the division is                                                              
not certain on how this would work because the handwriting of as                                                                
individuals is very different.                                                                                                  
MS. FENUMIAI concluded that the division also has a question about                                                              
how this could reduce the ability to detect fraud.  For instance,                                                               
if a voter has an option to vote for four candidates, make a                                                                    
preference of 1-4, and only decides to vote 1-2 (and his first                                                                  
place candidate did not get enough first place choices) and then he                                                             
did not mark a third and fourth place choice, the division is not                                                               
exactly sure how that would fit into accountability in being able                                                               
to detect total number of ballots - one-person, one-vote type                                                                   
Number 795                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES referred to Section 3(2), which states, "The election                                                               
board shall count hand-marked ballots."  She said she believes this                                                             
is the section for hand-marked ballots and is not necessarily the                                                               
ballots that are read through the electronic voting system.                                                                     
MS. FENUMIAI remarked okay, then how do you want the ballots that                                                               
are done in electronically counted precincts to be read.                                                                        
CHAIR JAMES said she understands that concern.  Larry Engsminger                                                                
might be able to respond to that.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY referred to the hand-marked, hand-counted                                                                
ballots.  He asked if there is a potential for more challenged                                                                  
ballots, or ballots to be thrown out due to confusion as to what                                                                
the numbers reflect.                                                                                                            
MS. FENUMIAI said that's another concern.  If a voter marks a first                                                             
place choice for two candidates, his or her ballot would be                                                                     
eliminated.  In the current system, they can have over-votes and                                                                
mis-mark a ballot, but he or she is only required to fill in an                                                                 
oval once, not multiple times.  She indicated that perhaps he or                                                                
she can lose track.                                                                                                             
MS. FENUMIAI noted that it is difficult for the division to recruit                                                             
election board workers and that it is also difficult to train them.                                                             
She said it's a little frightening for the division on how the new                                                              
system would work because there would be more errors in the                                                                     
hand-count precincts.  And if that's the case, it's scary.                                                                      
Number 822                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA referred to Section 2, line 4, which reads:                                                             
     If a ballot has no more available preferences, that ballot                                                                 
     shall be declared void.                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said she wondered where that concern is                                                                 
coming from - that you would just stop counting that ballot vote.                                                               
MS. FENUMIAI replied that the Division of Elections hasn't really                                                               
been able to come to a conclusion on that at this time.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked if these concerns had been discussed with                                                             
the sponsor, Representative Kott.                                                                                               
MS. FENUMIAI replied that the division hasn't had the opportunity                                                               
to discuss this with the sponsor because HB 141 was introduced on                                                               
March 17, and the sponsor substitute became available on Friday.                                                                
CHAIR JAMES added that the committee now has a new CS.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked Ms. Fenumiai if there is anything that                                                                
she likes about the bill [HB 141].                                                                                              
MS. FENUMIAI replied the division would like to have more time to                                                               
be able to review it.                                                                                                           
Number 843                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI stressed that the Division of Elections does believe                                                               
there would be a fiscal impact to the division, however, they have                                                              
not had the time to put together numbers on the new CS.  She                                                                    
reiterated that the division would like the opportunity to discuss                                                              
this in greater detail with the sponsor.                                                                                        
CHAIR JAMES stated that she cannot understand why a fiscal note                                                                 
isn't attached to HB 141 because there are proposed changes to the                                                              
rules and regulations.  She said Larry Engsminger, Global Election                                                              
System, will address the issue of software changes.  Chair James                                                                
said the decision the legislature will have to make is, is this a                                                               
good idea, will it make the democracy in this state better, and is                                                              
the price worth it.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked, if HB 141 was in place, would Tony                                                                   
Knowles be Governor?                                                                                                            
MS. FENUMIAI replied that they cannot assume how the other voters                                                               
would have marked second, third and fourth choices for their                                                                    
governor because this system was not in place at that time.  She                                                                
added that, "I don't think that it's fair to assume that candidates                                                             
[1994 lowest vote-getters]..."                                                                                                  
TAPE 99-18, SIDE B                                                                                                              
Number 001                                                                                                                      
MS. FENUMIAI continued her discussion, "...Those votes would then                                                               
probably have to be redistributed.  And then 8,727 votes were given                                                             
to the Green party, and then those votes would have been                                                                        
redistributed.  And then the Alaska Independence party, with the                                                                
next lowest vote-getter, that's if you hadn't received a 50 percent                                                             
majority at that time.  But I don't think that one can assume how                                                               
these votes would have been redistributed."                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN asked what was the percentage of the votes for                                                              
Governor Knowles when he was elected.                                                                                           
MS. FENUMIAI replied that it looks like 41 percent in 1994.  [Mr.                                                               
Wagoner had provided her this information].                                                                                     
Number 032                                                                                                                      
STEVE HILL, West Coast Director, Center for Voting and Democracy,                                                               
testified via teleconference from San Francisco, California.  He                                                                
said his expertise is in the realm of voting machines and election                                                              
MR. HILL said the "ACCU-Vote" [ES 2000] machines in Alaska are the                                                              
same machines that are used in Cambridge.  Alaska has Gems                                                                      
software, and Windows NT-based platform.  He indicated that Global,                                                             
the manufacturer, has not programmed Alaska's software to handle                                                                
transferrable ballots to his knowledge.                                                                                         
MR. HILL stated, "It seems to me there's two options here if you                                                                
want to use the machines to count all these transferrable ballots.                                                              
One would be to find out from Global [Elections System] ... Larry                                                               
Engsminger ... may be able to give you some idea of what it would                                                               
cost to reprogram that Gems software to handle transferrable                                                                    
ballots.  Since they've already gone through it in Cambridge ...                                                                
hopefully it won't be nearly as much of a job as it was when they                                                               
did it for Cambridge.  The other potential possibility would be to                                                              
use the software that Cambridge is using (VTS - Vote Tally                                                                      
Software) and put that into your ACCU-Vote.  That would be                                                                      
something that Global [Elections System] would have to give an                                                                  
opinion on, on what they think the feasibility of that might be."                                                               
MR. HILL further stated, "After having said that, there is another                                                              
option of how to implement this in Alaska that would allow you to                                                               
use your machines exactly as they are right now. ... What you would                                                             
do is, you would count all the first-choice rankings which is                                                                   
analogous to what you do right now and you just simply see, 'Okay,                                                              
did anyone have a majority of the vote.'  If they do, then the                                                                  
election's over just like it is now.  For the election where                                                                    
someone does not have a majority of the vote, then what you do is                                                               
you take a look at all the first-choice rankings, and ... let's say                                                             
you have an election where you have the Republican gets 42 percent                                                              
of the vote, the Democrat gets 40 percent, and a Libertarian party                                                              
gets 18 percent of the vote -- I don't know what Libertarians in                                                                
Alaska are like but in most places their votes often transfer to                                                                
Republicans more than Democrats [he begins to laugh].  But you can                                                              
make a preliminary announcement that it looks like the Republican                                                               
is going to win here, in this race, but you'll have to certify that                                                             
at a later time.  And, this is what they actually do in places like                                                             
Australia and the Republic of (indisc.) that use this.  They are                                                                
able to make the best guess estimate of what the results are                                                                    
(indisc.) and they're usually correct because they have some idea                                                               
of how votes transfer."                                                                                                         
Number 145                                                                                                                      
MR. HILL continued, "So you can make an estimate but, then what you                                                             
would do is, is you would take the paper ballots that have been                                                                 
filled out and you would transport them ... to some centralized                                                                 
place and there you would transfer the second and third choices by                                                              
a hand-count.  So you would be doing this after the polls close -                                                               
the next day - or however it takes you to get the ballots to the                                                                
centralized place."                                                                                                             
MR. HILL reiterated that a preliminary result would be announced                                                                
which would state the first choice rankings and that the final                                                                  
results would be announced when received.  Only the second and                                                                  
third choices would have to be done by a hand-count.  Mr. Hill                                                                  
noted that typically there are 250,000 votes in the election for                                                                
statewide offices.  Therefore, no more than 30,000 to 40,000 of the                                                             
votes would have to be counted of the second and third choices in                                                               
order to have a majority winner.  Mr. Hill suggested that this is                                                               
another process that would utilize the card machines to announce                                                                
preliminary results that would be finalized upon receipt of the                                                                 
final count.  With regard to the ease of this for voters, there                                                                 
will be an educational task that would have to be addressed.  He                                                                
pointed out that voters must be doing something differently now                                                                 
with the use of the ACCU-Vote machine and implied that voters are                                                               
flexible if given the opportunity to adapt.                                                                                     
MR. HILL said "In terms of write-in candidates, one of the things                                                               
we recommend with Instant Run-off voting or the preferential                                                                    
ballot, as you've been calling it, is that you transfer all of the                                                              
votes of candidates that get underneath--beneath like say one                                                                   
percent of the vote, you transfer them all simultaneously.  And so,                                                             
by doing it that way, you don't have to work through each one of                                                                
these one at a time; you just transfer them all at the same time."                                                              
He restated that this system is what is used in Ireland where it                                                                
works fine.                                                                                                                     
Number 208                                                                                                                      
MR. HILL addressed the comment that there is no standard of                                                                     
preferential voting.  The term preferential vote sort of refers to                                                              
these transferable ballots whether used in instant run-off voting                                                               
or the proportion representation system.  Mr. Hill said that the                                                                
instant run-off voting has only one standard:  the majority                                                                     
candidate wins.  This is the standard at work here because instant                                                              
run-off voting is what is really occurring.  With regards to                                                                    
comments about handwriting versus filling in ovals, the ACCU-Vote                                                               
system simply requires filling in the ovals.  In Cambridge, the                                                                 
left-hand side of the ballot lists the names of the candidates.                                                                 
The right top of the ballot has vertical columns which correspond                                                               
to a ranking.  Therefore, one would fill in the oval corresponding                                                              
to the candidate and the desired ranking of that candidate.  Mr.                                                                
Hill emphasized that this is not required, but is rather an option                                                              
for voters.  Some voters may not choose to utilize the ranking                                                                  
option.  Mr. Hill believed that if the Irish and the Australians                                                                
can handle this, so can Alaskans.  In fact, Alaska's machines are                                                               
more equipped for this.                                                                                                         
CHAIRMAN JAMES noted that the concerns regarding handwritten                                                                    
ballots emanates from the fact that Alaska does not have ACCU-Vote                                                              
machines in every precinct.                                                                                                     
MS. FENUMIAI explained that the intent to make all the ballots                                                                  
identical in all 453 precincts is so that, even in those hand-count                                                             
precincts, those ballots can be run through the ACCU-Vote machine                                                               
which was the case in 1998.  She said there is a necessity to keep                                                              
the ballots and the way the ballots are marked uniform across the                                                               
MR. HILL understood that approximately 15 percent of Alaska's                                                                   
voters use a hand-count for their precinct.  Those voters would use                                                             
the same ballots as the ACCU-Vote ballots use and those ballots can                                                             
be hand-counted or transported to a central place to be counted by                                                              
the ACCU-Vote.  Mr. Hill said that it works exactly the same way.                                                               
Number 296                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked, "If the person wins the first time,                                                              
that's the computer count.  But if you have to go into the                                                                      
run-offs, that's all hand counting.  Is that how you envision it                                                                
MR. HILL explained that if it is determined that it would be too                                                                
expensive to reprogram the Global software or install the VTS                                                                   
software, there is another way to do this.  The ACCU-Vote could be                                                              
used for the first choices, counting those, determine which races                                                               
have a majority and which do not.  The races without a majority                                                                 
would initiate an instant run-off and the other procedure involving                                                             
a hand-count of the second and third-rankings.                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA stated, then the question of how a computer                                                             
will read handwriting should be addressed to Global.                                                                            
MR. HILL clarified that it will always be ovals.  He believed that                                                              
the use of the ACCU-Vote "bubble sheet" in the hand-count precincts                                                             
would provide uniformity across the state.                                                                                      
MR. RICHIE reiterated that Cambridge does use the ACCU-Vote system                                                              
and have already used this with a preferential balloting system and                                                             
that the Cambridge voters handled it very well.  Cambridge utilized                                                             
this system for the first time in 1997 and did not experience very                                                              
many problems.                                                                                                                  
Number 346                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA said that she would like to see exactly                                                                 
what Cambridge does.  The information the committee was provided                                                                
shows that Cambridge marks numerals while Alaska's legislation                                                                  
would allow the writing in of numerals.  She said this is extremely                                                             
confusing.  Representative Kerttula asked if either Mr. Hill of Mr.                                                             
Richie had been in Alaska and viewed Alaska's system, specifically                                                              
in a village setting.                                                                                                           
CHAIRMAN JAMES interjected that some villages are inaccessible by                                                               
MR. HILL replied that he has not been in Alaska.  He asked if the                                                               
suggestion is that small villages inaccessible by road would be                                                                 
more of a barrier to instant run-offs more than any election Alaska                                                             
now holds.                                                                                                                      
CHAIRMAN JAMES believed that if this voting system works in one                                                                 
place it can work anywhere, however it is necessary to determine                                                                
how to make it work for Alaska if that is the choice.                                                                           
Number 394                                                                                                                      
CHIP WAGONER, Republican National Committeeman, State of Alaska and                                                             
Chair, Legislative Committee, Republican National Committee,                                                                    
informed the committee of his experience with elections in Alaska                                                               
which ranges from voter registration to serving on Alaska's                                                                     
certification board.  This is an exciting time to be a state                                                                    
government representative because of the innovative changes at the                                                              
state level.  Mr. Wagoner pointed out that this was predicted by                                                                
author John Naisbett in his book entitled, Megatrends which was                                                                 
published over a decade ago.  Mr. Wagoner discussed his                                                                         
interpretations of Mr. Naisbett's book.  He noted that Mr. Naisbett                                                             
says that there is a trend from an either/or society to a multiple                                                              
option society.  Mr. Naisbett also believes the death of the two                                                                
party system is occurring slowly, but surely.  Both of these trends                                                             
are occurring in Alaska.  In the last two presidential elections in                                                             
Alaska, there have been at least seven candidates on the ballot.                                                                
Alaska has five recognized parties in the state now who have access                                                             
to both the primary and general election ballots.  Mr. Wagoner                                                                  
noted that this does not include those candidates who get on the                                                                
general election ballot by petition.  Presently, Alaska elects                                                                  
candidates by a plurality.  Plurality made sense when the                                                                       
constitution was written and there was a two-party system.  In                                                                  
recent years, it has been found that many of Alaska's elections                                                                 
have been won or lost due to the minority vote.  Mr. Wagoner stated                                                             
that in eight of the last 10 gubernatorial elections in Alaska, it                                                              
was a minority of voters who actually chose the winner.                                                                         
MR. WAGONER stated that the Division of Elections has prepared a                                                                
list of 15 statewide elections in which a different result could                                                                
have occurred had there been instant run-off voting or preferential                                                             
voting as opposed to plurality voting.  This legislation, HB 141,                                                               
ensures that the candidate on the ballot that is most                                                                           
representative of the voters is the winner, which is democracy.                                                                 
Preferential voting accomplishes the same thing as if the state                                                                 
conducted a series of run-off elections, but without the tremendous                                                             
cost of a run-off election or the dramatic loss of voter interest                                                               
in a run-off election.  Mr. Wagoner understood that a regular                                                                   
run-off election would cost over $800,000.  Further, preferential                                                               
voting is politically neutral.  Mr. Wagoner explained that                                                                      
preferential voting ensures that the majority will of the                                                                       
electorate prevails, which is representative democracy.  He                                                                     
emphasized that this gives voters the greatest opportunity for                                                                  
self-expression.  Therefore, he believed there would be more voter                                                              
interest and turn out in elections.  He said, "Given this, it                                                                   
should come as no surprise that voters who have used this system in                                                             
other jurisdictions, like it.  In fact, not only do they like                                                                   
voting for their for first choice, but they actually take great                                                                 
pleasure in voting for who they want to be their last choice."                                                                  
Number 489                                                                                                                      
MR. WAGONER informed the committee that he had represented the                                                                  
Arizona Secretary of State and therefore, has some familiarity with                                                             
ballot issues and election law.  There are some public policy                                                                   
considerations for the legislature to consider with HB 141.  Mr.                                                                
Wagoner stated that there should be a system in which voters have                                                               
confidence that their vote is meaningful, which preferential voting                                                             
would accomplish.  The current plurality voting system does not                                                                 
always provide that confidence because there are wasted votes.                                                                  
Elections should also be representative, to truly reflect the will                                                              
of the majority of the voters in Alaska which the preferential                                                                  
voting would accomplish, while the current plurality voting system                                                              
has not.  There is also the desire to have fair elections in which                                                              
no votes are wasted ... and good campaigning which preferential                                                                 
voting would accomplish, while the current plurality voting system                                                              
has not.  There is also the need to have accurate results which                                                                 
preferential voting has been shown to be accurate in other                                                                      
districts.  Finally, there is the need to have official election                                                                
results as quickly as possible.  Mr. Wagoner acknowledged that the                                                              
preferential system may take longer to learn the official results,                                                              
but it must be remembered that the Division of Elections would have                                                             
to process more information than in the past.  The information the                                                              
Division of Elections currently processes would be available at the                                                             
same time as it is now.  The division is being asked to provide                                                                 
more information in order to provide a more representative                                                                      
government.  Mr. Wagoner stated that in most cases, the winner will                                                             
be known on election night because it will be known to which                                                                    
candidate most of the transferred ballots will go.  He indicated                                                                
that prior elections could be reviewed to determine the outcome of                                                              
those elections if the preferential voting system was utilized.                                                                 
Therefore, by election night the public will have a fairly good                                                                 
idea of who the winner is in most elections.  Mr. Wagoner pointed                                                               
out that this is only the case when the majority is not received by                                                             
a candidate the first time.  In most of Alaska's elections, a                                                                   
candidate receives a majority in the initial election.  This seems                                                              
to be a problem mainly in the statewide races.  In closing, Mr.                                                                 
Wagoner believed it would be great if Alaskan legislators could                                                                 
lead the nation to a more representative and fair voting system.                                                                
Mr. Wagoner urged the committee to support HB 141.                                                                              
Number 556                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY inquired as to how 15 elections could have                                                               
had different results with the preferential voting system when                                                                  
there was no system in place to reflect second and third choices.                                                               
MR. WAGONER explained that he had requested the Division of                                                                     
Elections to determine which elections could have been different                                                                
had the preferential voting system been in place.  The division                                                                 
reviewed all of the statewide elections and those elections in                                                                  
which a minority vote elected the winner.  In such cases, there                                                                 
could have been a different result had the preferential voting                                                                  
system been in place.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY referred to Mr. Wagoner's comments regarding                                                             
a wasted vote.  Although Representative Smalley acknowledged that                                                               
he had voted for candidates who did not win, he did not consider                                                                
that to be a wasted vote.  Representative Smalley did not view                                                                  
preferential voting as a fairer system, but rather a different                                                                  
CHAIR JAMES indicated agreement with Representative Smalley's                                                                   
comments on the issue of a wasted vote.  However, Chair James                                                                   
pointed out that a great number of those who do not vote do so                                                                  
because these people believe their vote does not make a difference.                                                             
Number 595                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY commented that there are those who do not                                                                
vote due to the confusion that occurs, for instance, when precincts                                                             
are changed.  Perhaps, the frustration would occur with a new                                                                   
voting process and result in even less voter turn out.                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL inquired as to how pre-election polling may                                                              
affect the run-off type election.  Often the media reporting of                                                                 
polling seems to have a tremendous affect on spoiler votes or a                                                                 
wasted vote.  Is there a study that would illustrate that polling                                                               
reporting is different?                                                                                                         
MR. WAGONER said that he did not know of any polling to which                                                                   
Representative Coghill referred.  He was aware that in 1994 there                                                               
was a poll that reported that a candidate was moving up in the                                                                  
polls which he believed caused a transfer of quite a few votes,                                                                 
particularly in the Fairbanks area.  The 1994 election was won by                                                               
less than 600 votes.  Mr. Wagoner stated that polling released                                                                  
prior to an election can affect this.  With regards to his earlier                                                              
comments about a wasted vote, Mr. Wagoner explained that under                                                                  
instant run-off every vote eventually goes toward determining the                                                               
winner.  However, in the plurality system that is not necessarily                                                               
the case.  He emphasized that the key to preferential voting is                                                                 
that voters can rank their preferences and therefore, the vote is                                                               
not going to hurt what the voter believes in.  Mr. Wagoner                                                                      
indicated that most of the smaller parties nationally, as well as                                                               
in Alaska, like preferential voting.  The smaller party can seek                                                                
votes to argue the position before the voters without the                                                                       
possibility of worsening their position or cause by undercutting                                                                
another candidate with similar views.                                                                                           
Number 647                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL clarified that he was trying to address the                                                              
education process.  He said that he was attempting to envision                                                                  
receiving a call regarding his first three choices and how that                                                                 
would be reported as a polling fact.  Further, he wondered what the                                                             
effect of that information would be on the dynamic of election                                                                  
MR. WAGONER indicated the possibility that those doing polling                                                                  
would ask that question.  Such information will affect elections.                                                               
He posed the following situation.  If he and Representative                                                                     
Smalley were running, he would want to know where his second                                                                    
choices would come from.  If the second choices would be from                                                                   
Representative Smalley's base of support, then Mr. Wagoner did not                                                              
believe he would attack Representative Smalley as strenuously.                                                                  
This would be a benefit with preferential voting because Mr.                                                                    
Wagoner did not believe there would be as many cheap shots.                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA indicated that Mr. Wagoner was describing                                                               
a situation in which things would be driven to the middle.                                                                      
MR. WAGONER agreed that would likely happen because what is being                                                               
attempted to elect the candidate that the most closely fits what                                                                
the voters want regardless of their political affiliation.  The                                                                 
purpose of preferential voting is to elect the candidates most                                                                  
representative of what the voters want.  Mr. Wagoner noted that                                                                 
voter preference changes and discussed Alaska's history.  The                                                                   
preferential voting system is politically neutral.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN discussed how he would have voted differently                                                               
in the 1994 election if the preferential voting system had been in                                                              
place.  Representative Ogan said that preferential voting would                                                                 
have given him the ability to vote for who he philosophically                                                                   
believed in knowing that there was a backup.                                                                                    
Number 707                                                                                                                      
MARK CHRYSON, Chairman, Alaskan Independence Party, testified via                                                               
teleconference from the Mat-Su Valley.  He pointed out that two of                                                              
the three major parties are here speaking in favor of HB 141.                                                                   
Alaska is a unique situation because there are six active political                                                             
parties, only five of which are officially state sanctioned                                                                     
parties.  There are minor parties that show up for election.  Mr.                                                               
Chryson stated that HB 141 would allow for the growth of more                                                                   
parties which would enable more people to become involved with the                                                              
political scene.  He commented that writing the numerics on the                                                                 
ballot is a draw back.  He believed that Mr. Hill's suggestion                                                                  
regarding the use of the grid with the dots for the ACCU-Vote would                                                             
be a more feasible option.  If HB 141 passes, Mr. Chryson believed                                                              
there would be larger voter turn outs.  Until the federal                                                                       
government allows Alaska's Division of Elections to purge its voter                                                             
registration rolls, we will have no idea what the actual voter turn                                                             
outs are.  In many districts, there are more registered voters than                                                             
the population of the district.  Mr. Chryson noted that he had                                                                  
served on the election board.  He believed that voter fraud does                                                                
occur.  Mr. Chryson informed the committee that, from first hand                                                                
experience, if an election judge questions a ballot, he/she will                                                                
never be asked to be an election judge again.  This has happened to                                                             
a number of folks including himself.  Ballots have been questioned                                                              
of persons claiming to be citizens, although these people were not                                                              
born in the U.S. nor could they speak English.  He pointed out that                                                             
a requirement of the citizenship test is that the test be taken in                                                              
English.  He believed that HB 141 would be in the best interest of                                                              
Alaska and would bring more involvement from the third, fourth,                                                                 
fifth, and sixth parties.  With regard to local elections, Mr.                                                                  
Chryson indicated that in the Mat-Su Valley there are often seven                                                               
or eight candidates for one political office.                                                                                   
Number 759                                                                                                                      
LARRY ENGSMINGER, Vice President, Operations, Global Election                                                                   
System, testified via teleconference from Texas.  He stated that                                                                
Global Election System is the vendor of the voting system that                                                                  
Alaska currently utilizes.                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES noted that there have been questions regarding the                                                                  
ACCU-Vote system and the fact that the ACCU-Vote system in                                                                      
Cambridge has different software.  She requested that Mr.                                                                       
Engsminger discuss what would be required if Alaska went to a                                                                   
multiple choice system.  She also asked Mr. Engsminger to discuss                                                               
how the current machines could be used with the change in software.                                                             
MR. ENGSMINGER explained that the application software that Alaska                                                              
utilizes is the Gems software which operates on a NT-based                                                                      
platform.  The system in Cambridge, Massachusetts is on an older                                                                
platform ( the Vote Tally System) which has been discontinued.  The                                                             
new software is gradually replacing the old software in, or all                                                                 
Global's jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and Canada.  Mr.                                                                     
Engsminger said Alaska's software does not accommodate preferential                                                             
voting in the manner that has been described.  However, Global can                                                              
accommodate preferential voting.                                                                                                
CHAIR JAMES inquired as to what would be involved in order to                                                                   
adjust the system; would it merely be software changes?                                                                         
MR. ENGSMINGER replied yes, but it would be fairly far-reaching                                                                 
because the ballot layout portion of the software would need to be                                                              
adjusted to accommodate this voting.  In further response to Chair                                                              
James, Mr. Engsminger estimated that such changes would be a custom                                                             
software project that would require seven to eight man-months of                                                                
work costing approximately $175,000.                                                                                            
Number 803                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES said that there seemed to be a trend and others are                                                                 
interested in this type of balloting.  She wondered if it would be                                                              
a good financial decision for Global to adapt to this type of                                                                   
MR. ENGSMINGER said that had been discussed internally.  He stated                                                              
that, "Our issues are that we have to deal with all those types of                                                              
versions or try to see where the industry is going to standardize                                                               
on some type of preferential voting."                                                                                           
CHAIR JAMES stated that although she has always been interested in                                                              
change, "change just for change sake is not necessarily the way to                                                              
go."  Change should occur if there is a good reason to do so.                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN noted that the system utilizes an optical                                                                   
scanner machine.  Suppose there are four gubernatorial candidates;                                                              
couldn't there be boxes designated for the first, second, third,                                                                
and fourth choices.  Then the votes of the first, second, and third                                                             
choices would be tallied.  Therefore, Representative Ogan indicated                                                             
that it would be fairly easy to enter those votes or program the                                                                
machine to automatically do so, if there was a run-off in order to                                                              
transfer votes to the appropriate person.                                                                                       
MR. ENGSMINGER asked if Representative Ogan meant that the                                                                      
designated box would be filled in with a number, character, or                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE OGAN clarified that he meant shading in the box.                                                                 
Representative Ogan agreed with Mr. Engsminger that behind each                                                                 
candidate name there would be four boxes.  Representative Ogan                                                                  
believed that it would be fairly easy for the machine to tally                                                                  
those votes.                                                                                                                    
Number 854                                                                                                                      
MR. ENGSMINGER said that it would require a fairly extensive                                                                    
programming effort.  Global's work research and development team                                                                
has reviewed this.  The amount of effort is extensive due to the                                                                
ramifications throughout the entire application.  The program in                                                                
Cambridge, Massachusetts took the better part of a year to                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES inquired as to whether the platform being utilized for                                                              
Alaska's system would have to be changed.                                                                                       
TAPE 99-19, SIDE A                                                                                                              
Number 001                                                                                                                      
MR. ENGSMINGER continued, "... phasing that out.  The other side,                                                               
if you're heading toward a question like this; could we put the VTS                                                             
system in Alaska?  The down-side of that, is that we made extensive                                                             
changes in our program on the Gems-side, for Alaska, to accommodate                                                             
certain other counting conventions that you all use there that we                                                               
don't experience in other places.  So, we would have to go back to                                                              
the VTS side and redo all of that as well, so it really doesn't, in                                                             
my opinion, doesn't make sense to do that given the fact that down                                                              
the road, two to three years from now, we will have everybody                                                                   
phased out of the VTS system, so that we're only supporting one                                                                 
application software piece."                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SMALLEY referred to Mr. Engsminger's comments that                                                               
it may take seven to eight months and approximately $135,000                                                                    
dollars to create the software.  He asked whether that was the                                                                  
total cost or the cost of bringing forward the preferential system.                                                             
Number 040                                                                                                                      
MR. ENGSMINGER clarified that the cost would be 175,000 dollars and                                                             
that would be for changing the application software.  He said that                                                              
he wasn't sure what that would do to the ballot layout.  For                                                                    
example, if there is a lengthy ballot, meaning a fair number of                                                                 
candidates, for each candidate there would have to be a designated                                                              
column of voting targets to accommodate this type of voting.                                                                    
Depending on how large the election is, there could end up being                                                                
multiple ballot cards for each voter.  Mr. Engsminger indicated                                                                 
that this hasn't really been looked at because it is dependent on                                                               
the election environment, although, in some states the voter has                                                                
ended up with more than one ballot.  This would add to the ongoing                                                              
operational costs, but it is still dependent on the election                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA wondered how well computers are able to                                                                 
read hand written numbers.                                                                                                      
MR. ENGSMINGER replied that the type of technology that reads hand                                                              
written numbers, optical character recognition, was pioneered by                                                                
the post office for reading zip codes.  He said this type of                                                                    
technology is different from what is presently used and it would                                                                
require a substantive change.                                                                                                   
Number 125                                                                                                                      
JIM SYKES testified via teleconference from Denver, Colorado.  He                                                               
     Thank you for bringing this bill forward and for hearing it.                                                               
     I've run for governor twice, as many of you know, and I wish                                                               
     that we had the preferential ballot in place during that time.                                                             
     I first want to say that (indisc.) people asking me choices,                                                               
     well I'd like to vote for you, but, you know, I feel like I                                                                
     need to vote for somebody else just because I'm afraid                                                                     
     somebody else might run.  ... I think that's a totally bogus                                                               
     way to approach democracy.  I think we should encourage people                                                             
     to vote for whom they believe.  We should encourage candidates                                                             
     to speak the ideas that they believe in most strongly.  So                                                                 
     that we actually do have the best choice of who is going to                                                                
     lead us, who is going to govern us, who is going to help us                                                                
     get through our most serious problems.                                                                                     
     I would like to address a couple of things since we've covered                                                             
     a lot of ground.  You don't need to feel locked into the                                                                   
     ACCU-Voting system.  ... I took computer programing back in                                                                
     the late 60's and early 70's and you could have easily have                                                                
     operated this with a punch card with the technology that we                                                                
     had 30 years ago.  It's not rocket science.  You can also                                                                  
     print paper ballots.  You will find that a lot of places who                                                               
     do have preferential ballots in Australia and New Zealand,                                                                 
     still have paper ballots, and they hand count these ballots                                                                
     and they total them up nearly as fast as we can total up a                                                                 
     ballot where we don't have more than on choice.                                                                            
     The other thing that you may wish to consider is, ... you                                                                  
     could also have the potential to take advisory votes on                                                                    
     several options.  For example, a non-controversial issue like                                                              
     subsistence, you take that, put it on four or five choices and                                                             
     ask people to mark what they thought was closest to what they                                                              
     believe and then really get a pretty good idea of where you                                                                
     might want to go to solve that problem.                                                                                    
     So, I do support the bill.  I don't have the committee                                                                     
     substitute in front of me.  I do have some serious questions                                                               
     about the sticker portion of it for write-in candidates.  I                                                                
     don't know how that part of it goes, but as far as ranking a                                                               
     preferential ballot, as far as people wanting to vote, I think                                                             
     it is -- somebody asked if it's more fair, yes, I do think it                                                              
     is more fair, because the voter has the power to decide where                                                              
     their vote goes.  If they choose to only vote for one                                                                      
     candidate and no other candidate, and that candidate is thrown                                                             
     out, it's no more of a loss than a candidate that you vote for                                                             
     that doesn't prevail in the present election.  However, if you                                                             
     choose (indisc.) to make more choices, then your ballot will                                                               
     go as far, if you want to make choices.  I think that that's                                                               
     where we want to be, is giving voters more power, so I'll                                                                  
     support the bill.  If you have any questions, I've studied a                                                               
     lot of systems across the world and I think this is a                                                                      
     basically fair one, and I urge you to support it.  I think, as                                                             
     somebody stated earlier, if neutral, it doesn't help anybody                                                               
     [and] it doesn't hurt anybody, and it's a good system for                                                                  
     making our democracy better.                                                                                               
Number 201                                                                                                                      
CHAIR JAMES referred to Mr. Sykes comment on a minority candidate.                                                              
She said, if people could have had their first choice, knowing that                                                             
chances of you winning on the first vote would not be good, but the                                                             
second vote would count, what do you think the effect would have                                                                
been on the votes you received.                                                                                                 
MR. SYKES indicated that he probably would have received a lot more                                                             
first-place ballots, and if he did not win, people would have at                                                                
least had the chance to express their true desire.  Furthermore,                                                                
the public would see that he had received a certain percentage of                                                               
the votes on the first ballot ... maybe the public would consider,                                                              
to a greater extent, what he had been saying.                                                                                   
CHAIR JAMES said that was her point.  She indicated that she is not                                                             
necessarily in favor or opposed to the minority parties, however,                                                               
they feel they are not being treated the same as other parties.                                                                 
Number 243                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA asked if Mr. Sykes would be in favor of                                                                 
people voting across party lines.  She noted that HB 141 won't                                                                  
allow for that.                                                                                                                 
MR. SYKES replied yes, people should be allowed to vote for any                                                                 
candidate in the primary or the general election.  In fact, the                                                                 
primary election could be eliminated all together and rolled into                                                               
the general election.                                                                                                           
MR. WAGONER stated that it is his understanding that the intent of                                                              
HB 141 is not to change Alaska's blanket primary system which has                                                               
been upheld by the state supreme court.  Presently a voter can only                                                             
vote for one person.  He said, if a person decides to vote for the                                                              
Democratic for governor in the primary, he or she cannot also vote                                                              
for the Republican candidate for governor.  The primary election is                                                             
a series of elections for each recognized party (because only                                                                   
recognized parties are on a primary).  The preferential voting                                                                  
system would not change that, you could still cross party lines and                                                             
vote for a Democrat for governor, a Republican for Senator, and a                                                               
Green party for Representative.  But the difference is, in the                                                                  
primary election, once you decide which column you want to vote                                                                 
for, for that office, then you would get to rank.  Mr. Wagoner                                                                  
stated, "And for the exact same reason you get to rank in the                                                                   
general election, and this you want your vote to count and you want                                                             
the most representative candidate of that party to be the nominee                                                               
of that party.  So if you had three or four people running as a                                                                 
Republican and you decided you wanted to vote for that Republican                                                               
candidate, you could, and you would rank them in that column.  To                                                               
allow a voter to rank all of them would allow them to essentially                                                               
vote more times than they are allowed to currently vote."                                                                       
CHAIR JAMES commented that the committee needs to look closely at                                                               
HB 141, word by word, and determine what it does means.  She said,                                                              
"The intent is not to change the voting.  And if that's the case,                                                               
then we can go from there."                                                                                                     
Number 316                                                                                                                      
SCOTT KOHLHAAS, Membership Chairman, Executive Committee of the                                                                 
Alaska Libertarian Party, testified via teleconference from                                                                     
Anchorage.  He stated:                                                                                                          
     I'm here to speak in favor of HB 141 today.  And even though                                                               
     I'm not totally sure when I hear things like HB 141 eliminates                                                             
     the possibility of having a minority candidate win an                                                                      
     election, I don't think we should eliminate possibilities.  I                                                              
     worry about the 3 percent threshold for governor that it takes                                                             
     to stay on a party.  Will that be determined by the first vote                                                             
     count or the last vote count?  And I want to say that I'm not                                                              
     here to make a partisan pitch.  I really believed, before I                                                                
     came in here, that HB 141 would benefit everyone, and then I                                                               
     heard Gail's testimony. ... But I'm troubled by her testimony.                                                             
     She may be frightened and scared, and they may have to stay up                                                             
     late, and they may be confused.  ... Some of the comments that                                                             
     the chair made, made me feel a lot better, because she                                                                     
     understood the state of mind of the average eligible voter.                                                                
     We know from the numbers that most people don't vote anymore;                                                              
     they are disillusioned; they don't believe they can make a                                                                 
     difference - it's true, and so they don't vote.  And of the                                                                
     people who are left, they're on this crusade to stop evil, to                                                              
     save the country.  I can't tell you how many thousands of                                                                  
     times I've heard, "Gee we'd love to vote for you, but I've                                                                 
     gotta vote for this guy to keep this greater evil out."  And                                                               
     the point is, is that there's this angst: Greens who want to                                                               
     vote for the Democrats, but they can't, Republicans who want                                                               
     to vote for the Libertarians, but they can't, and again, most                                                              
     people don't vote.                                                                                                         
     So, we've got a pressure cooker, folks.  It might make it a                                                                
     little tougher on the Division of Elections, just like motor                                                               
     voter [National Voter Registration Act of 1993] did; I've                                                                  
     heard complaints about motor voter.  But, the point is that                                                                
     we're trying to pull in more people and relieve this pressure                                                              
     cooker.  Now, we have a real need, because of that pressure,                                                               
     for a system that gives us release.  We have the technology,                                                               
     so we should take the chance we have to be the first in the                                                                
     nation.  And so I ask you, let people vote their hopes, not                                                                
     just their fears.  Vote for HB 141.                                                                                        
Number 370                                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA told Mr. Kohlhaas that Ms. Fenumiai, who                                                                
she has known for some time, is not scared.  That part of his                                                                   
testimony sounded condescending, even though it may not have been                                                               
meant that way.                                                                                                                 
[HB 141 was held in committee].                                                                                                 

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