Legislature(2001 - 2002)

02/22/2001 08:02 AM House STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 8 - VOTING SITES AT MILITARY INSTALLATIONS                                                                                
Number 0099                                                                                                                     
CHAIR COGHILL  announced the  first order of  business as  CS FOR                                                               
SENATE  JOINT  RESOLUTION  NO.  8(STA),  Relating  to  supporting                                                               
polling places at military installations.                                                                                       
Number 0215                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  LOREN  LEMAN,  Alaska State  Legislature,  testified  as                                                               
sponsor of  SJR 8.   He introduced  himself as the  state senator                                                               
representing  Elmendorf  Air  Force  Base as  well  as  parts  of                                                               
northwest Anchorage and east Anchorage.   He said SJR 8 addresses                                                               
the prospect  of changing  what has been  a consistent  policy of                                                               
[Alaska's]  Division of  Elections, to  allow voters  on military                                                               
installations to vote on their posts and bases.                                                                                 
SENATOR LEMAN explained that in  December 1999, the United States                                                               
Department of  Defense issued  a directive  advising installation                                                               
commanders not to  allow their facilities to be  used for polling                                                               
or voting.   If that directive were to be  followed, the military                                                               
voters  could no  longer vote  in  their neighborhoods.  Congress                                                               
took action  and [Alaska's United  States] Senator  [Ted] Stevens                                                               
authored an  amendment to an  appropriations bill  that postponed                                                               
the effective date of the Department of Defense directive.                                                                      
SENATOR LEMAN  further explained that  the issue has now  come to                                                               
the  fore in  Anchorage, which  holds local  elections in  April.                                                               
Election officials  are working  right now with  the municipality                                                               
on setting  up the  election sites  for the  municipal elections.                                                               
They are faced  with uncertainty about whether  the facilities at                                                               
Fort  Richardson and  Elmendorf  AFB will  be  available as  they                                                               
historically have been for the municipal elections.                                                                             
SENATOR LEMAN  said there are two  ways to remedy the  impacts of                                                               
the Department  of Defense directive.   The first is to  have the                                                               
Department of  Defense rescind its  directive.  The second  is to                                                               
take Congressional  action.   Congress is  working on  the second                                                               
remedy; HJR  8 addresses the first  one.  Congress last  year was                                                               
considering a House resolution that  dealt with this issue and he                                                               
understands that the  same issue is being taken up  again in this                                                               
Congress.   It is his  belief that  military men and  women, like                                                               
other voters, should  be allowed to vote  in their neighborhoods.                                                               
He  noted  that AS  15.15.090  requires  a  polling place  to  be                                                               
located  within a  precinct unless  a location  more suitable  or                                                               
more convenient to the voter is identified.                                                                                     
SENATOR  LEMAN  said  the committee  would  hear  testimony  from                                                               
election officials  that the places  they have identified  on the                                                               
bases  and posts  are,  indeed, suitable;  they're  close to  the                                                               
people who  vote, they're adequate;  and, therefore,  they should                                                               
continue  to be  used as  polling  places.   In closing,  Senator                                                               
Leman  commended   the  Division   of  Elections  for   doing  an                                                               
outstanding job  of running elections and  making the opportunity                                                               
to vote available to all Alaskans.                                                                                              
Number 0631                                                                                                                     
SHELLEY GROWDEN,  Elections Supervisor, Central  Region, Division                                                               
of Elections,  Office of the  Lieutenant Governor,  testified via                                                               
teleconference   that  her   jurisdiction   includes  both   Fort                                                               
Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base.   She said the Division of                                                               
Elections is  very supportive of  SJR 8,  as there was  a problem                                                               
before the  2000 primary election  getting confirmation  from the                                                               
military  bases   regarding  whether  or  not   the  Division  of                                                               
Elections was  going to  be allowed [to  have polling  places] on                                                               
base for the elections.                                                                                                         
MS. GROWDEN  testified that about  a month before the  primary in                                                               
July, she  received official notification  from Eielson  AFB that                                                               
the  Division of  Elections could  not  have a  polling place  on                                                               
base.   She also was denied  permission to use the  school, which                                                               
is a  state-owned facility  on Eielson  AFB.   Election officials                                                               
worked with  Senator Stevens' office, "and  finally the President                                                               
signed  the appropriations  bill and  I notified  Eielson AFB  of                                                               
that," she said.   "But it came down to about  30 days before the                                                               
election, so  it caused  a lot  of concern  on [the  Division of]                                                               
Elections part  not knowing  if we  were going  to be  allowed to                                                               
have a polling place on base."                                                                                                  
MS. GROWDEN estimated  that there are more  than 6,000 registered                                                               
voters on  Eielson AFB, and, "If  we move a polling  place, we're                                                               
required  under the  Federal Voting  Rights Act  to receive  pre-                                                               
clearance from the Unites States  Department of Justice, which is                                                               
a 60-day process, and then Alaska  law requires us to notify each                                                               
registered voter ...."                                                                                                          
MS.  GROWDEN said  she would  like to  see more  participation by                                                               
military voters  in local  and state elections,  not just  in the                                                               
presidential elections.   "If we locate polling  places off base,                                                               
we are going  to be affecting the voter turnout  for our military                                                               
voters,  which is  already ...  very low  ...."   She added,  "As                                                               
Senator Leman  stated, we  all in Alaska  enjoy the  privilege of                                                               
being able  to vote  right in our  neighborhoods, and  this would                                                               
not be the case for military voters."                                                                                           
Number 0828                                                                                                                     
MS. GROWDEN explained that in the  case of Eielson AFB, she would                                                               
have to move the polling place  to Moose Creek or North Pole, and                                                               
for Fort  Wainwright, she would have  to find a place  that's not                                                               
already currently used  that could handle that many  voters.  "It                                                               
definitely   is  going   to  be   difficult  on   both  elections                                                               
administration and  the voters  if we start  having to  make that                                                               
many voters  go off  base and  have to  find transportation  to a                                                               
polling place  outside of their  neighborhood," she said.   "So I                                                               
definitely support [HJR  8] and I hope we can  get the Department                                                               
of Defense or Congress to rescind the directive for good."                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE STEVENS  asked if the  Kodiak Coast Guard  Base is                                                               
in the Central Region.                                                                                                          
MS. GROWDEN said it in a different region.                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  STEVENS described  a similar  situation affecting                                                               
2,500 people  on the Kodiak Island  Coast Guard Base who  have no                                                               
polling place there.                                                                                                            
CHAIR  COGHILL noted  that Representative  James  had joined  the                                                               
committee meeting.                                                                                                              
CHAIR COGHILL mentioned that Fort  Wainwright is in the middle of                                                               
his  district and  takes  up a  big  chunk  of it,  so  he has  a                                                               
"tremendous interest" and is very supportive [of SJR 8].                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  CRAWFORD  commended  Senator   Leman  on  SJR  8,                                                               
saying, "Anything that helps get people  out to the polls I think                                                               
is a good thing ...."                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   STEVENS  asked   about  voter   registration  on                                                               
military bases, citing  an example of permission  being denied to                                                               
do  so on  the Coast  Guard base  in Kodiak.   He  suggested that                                                               
Senator Leman look into that, too.                                                                                              
SENATOR  LEMAN  observed  that  the  Coast  Guard  is  under  the                                                               
jurisdiction of the Department of  Transportation rather than the                                                               
Department  of  Defense,  so  the   situation  may  be  a  little                                                               
different.  In his district, at  Elmendorf AFB, there is a person                                                               
called  a "voting  officer"  who coordinates  such  efforts.   He                                                               
understands that  they allow  voter registration  on the  base at                                                               
Elmendorf.  He agreed that  voter registration on bases should be                                                               
encouraged and any inconvenience remedied.                                                                                      
Number 1100                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  COGHILL  asked  Ms.  Growden  if  the  Elections  Division                                                               
conducts registration drives at Eielson AFB or Fort Wainwright.                                                                 
MS. GROWDEN said for all the  election cycles, she works with the                                                               
unit voting officers.  This past  year, in 2000, there was a very                                                               
proactive unit voting  officer at Fort Wainwright.   The Division                                                               
of  Elections  worked  with  that   officer  to  sponsor  several                                                               
registration drives.   Her staff has been  invited to participate                                                               
in registration drives  at Fort Wainwright as well.   She assured                                                               
the  committee   that  the  military  regularly   sponsors  voter                                                               
registration drives.                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE HAYES  asked Senator  Leman if any  resolutions to                                                               
address this issue have been introduced in this Congress.                                                                       
SENATOR  LEMAN said  he thinks  it has  not been  introduced this                                                               
session,  but  he  believes  that  both  the  president  and  the                                                               
secretary of defense are trying  to approach it administratively,                                                               
and  that legislation  may not  be necessary.   However,  Senator                                                               
Leman thinks it  probably should be dealt with  by legislation so                                                               
this doesn't become an issue in the future.                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE HAYES asked Ms. Growden  if there is a backup plan                                                               
if no solution comes [from the federal level].                                                                                  
MS.  GROWDEN said  the  Elections Division  will  have to  locate                                                               
those polling places off base, and  has been looking for the best                                                               
locations.  She  is hoping that Fort Wainwright  will continue to                                                               
allow voting on base.  She explained:                                                                                           
     I just could not be  in a military-owned facility, so I                                                                    
     moved to  the school  from the  post library,  and that                                                                    
     seemed  to  appease  the military  personnel  for  Fort                                                                    
     Wainwright.  That  was not the case  for Eielson [AFB],                                                                    
     however.  When I offered to  move to the school, it was                                                                    
     still an issue of, "No, you  can't be on base."  And so                                                                    
     for  Eielson, my  first choice  would be  to go  to the                                                                    
     Moose  Creek fire  station.   I've talked  to the  fire                                                                    
     chief out there.  They  were a little concerned because                                                                    
     I already  have a polling  place in that  facility, but                                                                    
     they would  in a pinch  allow us to use  that facility.                                                                    
     Beyond that,  those voters  would have  to go  to North                                                                    
     Pole ...[and] I just could  not allow voters to have to                                                                    
     travel that far to go cast their vote.                                                                                     
     So  I'm hoping  that Fort  Wainwright will  continue to                                                                    
     allow  me to  use  a state-owned  facility, the  school                                                                    
     there,  and if  not, we  would have  to look  at Tanana                                                                    
     Junior High School, if the  school district would allow                                                                    
     us to  use that facility.   Again though, a  very large                                                                    
     precinct is  already using this  school and  the school                                                                    
     is overcrowded,  so we're still  just not  exactly sure                                                                    
     if Fort Wainwright  doesn't allow us on  where we would                                                                    
     end up going.                                                                                                              
Number 1440                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE WILSON  moved to report  HCS CSSJR 8 (MLV)  out of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.   There being no  objection, HCS CSSJR 8  (MLV) was                                                               
reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee.                                                                     

Document Name Date/Time Subjects