Legislature(2011 - 2012)CAPITOL 106

02/02/2012 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
*+ HB 260 PERMANENT ABSENTEE VOTING TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+= HB 287 ABSENTEE VOTING TELECONFERENCED
Moved CSHB 287(STA) Out of Committee
                HB 260-PERMANENT ABSENTEE VOTING                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
[During discussion of HB 260, there was mention of HB 287.]                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
8:05:51 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  next order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO.  260, "An Act  establishing a permanent  absentee voting                                                               
option  for  qualified voters;  and  providing  for an  effective                                                               
date."                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:06:18 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN,  as sponsor,  introduced  HB  260.   He                                                               
stated that  the proposed legislation would  strengthen democracy                                                               
by increasing  Alaskans' access to and  ease of voting.   He said                                                               
many people cannot  get to the voting precincts  on Election Day,                                                               
including  soldiers, miners,  North  Slope  workers, adults  with                                                               
disabilities, and  the elderly. Representative  Petersen reported                                                               
that  Alaska has  the fastest  growing senior  population in  the                                                               
nation, and studies show that among  the most likely to use mail-                                                               
in absentee  ballots are the  elderly.  He indicated  that voters                                                               
who are out of town during  an election, living in a remote area,                                                               
or who  have a  physical disability benefit  from the  ability to                                                               
use  mail-in absentee  ballots.   The proposed  legislation would                                                               
allow  these   people  to  participate   more  easily   in  their                                                               
democracy.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN  said  currently seven  states  and  the                                                               
District  of  Columbia  allow  voters   to  apply  for  permanent                                                               
absentee voter status.   Nationwide, there has  been an increased                                                               
trend in  voters participating in voting  early, voting absentee,                                                               
and applying for permanent absentee  voting status in states that                                                               
allow it.   He  related that  in 2008, one  in three  voters cast                                                               
his/her ballot  before Election Day.   The number of  voters that                                                               
wait to vote at the voting  precincts has decreased over the last                                                               
12 years.   He  relayed that  in 2008,  106,052 voters  in Alaska                                                               
voted  absentee,  which was  21  percent  of Alaska's  registered                                                               
voters.  In  2010, he said, that number was  67,737.  He ventured                                                               
that  the greater  number in  2008 was  because that  year was  a                                                               
Presidential election year.   Representative Petersen stated that                                                               
permanent absentee voting  will not only make  voting easier, but                                                               
will also make  it more difficult to commit  voter fraud, because                                                               
of the scrutiny over every  ballot that is counted.  Furthermore,                                                               
the  process would  lower  the operating  cost  of the  division.                                                               
Representative Petersen  said under HB 260,  Alaska will continue                                                               
to  be on  par  with the  changing trends  in  voting across  the                                                               
country.     Consideration  of  the  proposed   legislation  will                                                               
recognize voter sentiment  in wanting the election  process to be                                                               
more  convenient,  while  allowing  the  division  to  remain  in                                                               
control and ensuring fair elections.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:10:40 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN,  in response  to  the  chair, said  the                                                               
principle difference  between HB 260  and HB  287 is that  HB 260                                                               
would allow voters permanent absentee voter status.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
8:10:56 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MONICA  SOUTHWORTH, Staff,  Representative Pete  Petersen, Alaska                                                               
State   Legislature,  on   behalf  of   Representative  Petersen,                                                               
sponsor, presented the sectional analysis  for HB 260, which read                                                               
as follows  [original punctuation provided, with  some formatting                                                               
changes]:                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Section 1 of this bill amends AS 15.07.127 by adding a                                                                     
     new subsection (b) that states "the director shall                                                                         
     maintain the list under (a) of this section so that                                                                        
     the names of persons who have the status of permanent                                                                      
     absentee voters under AS 15.20.085 may be readily                                                                          
     identified."                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Section 2 of this bill amends AS 15.07.130(e) by                                                                           
     adding (b) which states that a voter who applies to                                                                        
     the Division of Elections for a permanent absentee                                                                         
     voter status qualifies as a voter who "appears to                                                                          
     vote" under (b) and (d) of this section.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     Section 3 Amends AS 15.20 by adding a new section                                                                          
     (15.20.085) that:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     (a) enables Alaskan voters to apply to the Division of                                                                     
     Elections for permanent absentee voting status;                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
     (b) allows a person to provide a voter with a                                                                              
     permanent absentee voting application form with a                                                                          
     political party or group affiliation only if that                                                                          
     voter is already registered with the political party                                                                       
     or group indicated. This paragraph also sets forth                                                                         
     requirements that only the voter may mark the                                                                              
     application form, indicate their choice of primary                                                                         
     ballot and submit the application to the Division of                                                                       
     Elections on a form prescribed by the Director of the                                                                      
     Division of Elections;                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     (c) requires the Division of Elections to send an                                                                          
     absentee ballot to each voter designated as a                                                                              
     permanent absentee voter for each state primary,                                                                           
     general and special election and any other election                                                                        
     for which the state has the responsibility for                                                                             
     conducting the election; and establishes the timeline                                                                      
     and manner in which the ballots will be sent;                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     (d) requires the Director of the Division of Elections                                                                     
     to make change of address forms available for                                                                              
     permanent absentee voters;                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     (e) allows the Director of the Division of Elections                                                                       
     to not send an absentee ballot if the Division has                                                                         
     received notice that mail sent to an address is                                                                            
     undeliverable;                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     (f) allows a permanent absent voter to cast the ballot                                                                     
     under AS 15.20.081(d), which lists persons who are                                                                         
     authorized to witness the casting of a ballot, and AS                                                                      
     15.20.081(e), which lists the dates by  which the                                                                          
     ballot must be cast and the means by which it must be                                                                      
     returned to the Division of Elections;                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     (g) requires that ballots voted under this section be                                                                      
     reviewed under the procedures that are established for                                                                     
     the review of absentee ballots in AS 15.20.201 and AS                                                                      
     15.20.203;                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     (h) establishes that nothing in this section prohibits                                                                     
     a person from voting early, or in person at a                                                                              
     precinct, or in person before an absentee voting                                                                           
     official, or by electronic submission as provided by                                                                       
     AS 15.15.195, AS 15.15.198, AS 15.20.061, AS 15.20.064                                                                     
     and AS 15.20.066.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     Section 4 amends AS 15.56.030(a) by making the                                                                             
     provisions that govern the unlawful interference with                                                                      
     voting in the first degree apply to permanent absentee                                                                     
     voting.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     Section 5 amends AS 15.56.035(a) by making the                                                                             
     provisions that govern the unlawful interference with                                                                      
     voting in the second degree apply to permanent                                                                             
     absentee voting.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     Section 6 authorizes the Director of the Division of                                                                       
     Elections to adopt regulations to implement the                                                                            
     changes made in this act.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     Section 7 provides for an immediate effective date for                                                                     
     section 6, which will allow the Division of Elections                                                                      
     to adopt regulations to implement the changes made in                                                                      
     this act.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
       Section 8 provides for a January 1, 2013 effective                                                                       
     date for all other provisions of this act.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:14:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE P.  WILSON directed  attention to Section  3(b) of                                                               
the  sectional analysis,  which states  that only  the voter  may                                                               
mark  the application  form.   She said  there are  times when  a                                                               
voter is mentally capable to  vote, but not physically capable to                                                               
mark the ballot  on his/her own.  As an  example, she shared that                                                               
her father had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN  clarified that  that language  refers to                                                               
the application for the absentee ballot not the ballot itself.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  P.  WILSON  responded  that there  may  be  times                                                               
person needs to  have someone else mark  his/her application, for                                                               
example, someone with Parkinson's.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:17:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN in  response  to  the chair,  reiterated                                                               
that  the only  change  proposed  under HB  260  is  to make  the                                                               
absentee ballot status permanent for those who apply for it.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
8:17:33 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN, in  response to Representative Johansen,                                                               
offered his understanding  that the State of Oregon  has gone 100                                                               
percent to voting by mail.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHANSEN   questioned  how,   under  HB   260,  a                                                               
situation would be  prevented in which someone who  had signed up                                                               
for permanent absentee  voting status moved to  another state and                                                               
had his/her absentee ballot forwarded and submitted that ballot.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN  offered his  belief  that  if a  person                                                               
leaves  Alaska  and registers  to  vote  in another  state,  then                                                               
he/she would no longer be eligible to vote the Alaska ballots.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN  asked about a  situation in which someone  moved from                                                               
Alaska  to another  state,  but  did not  register  in the  other                                                               
state.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN deferred to his staff.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:20:49 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. SOUTHWORTH  offered her understanding that  the United States                                                               
Postal Service (USPS) will not forward ballots.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  JOHANSEN  said he  realizes  that  USPS will  not                                                               
forward ballots, but said it would  be easy for someone to have a                                                               
friend  or  relative  send  the  ballot to  the  Lower  48.    He                                                               
emphasized the  importance of ensuring the  integrity of Alaska's                                                               
voting process.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
8:22:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN, in  response to  Representative Keller,                                                               
said  he does  not recall  having seen  any statistics  that show                                                               
that with an increased use  of absentee ballots comes an increase                                                               
in fraud.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
8:23:20 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON  directed attention to Section  3(f) of the                                                               
sectional analysis,  regarding persons authorized to  witness the                                                               
signing of  an absentee ballot,  and he said the  committee dealt                                                               
with  that  issue  comprehensively  during the  hearing  of  past                                                               
legislation.   He asked if HB  260 would make changes  related to                                                               
witnessing.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN  offered   his  understanding  that  the                                                               
proposed bill would not change that procedure in any way.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON said he would  like some clarification from                                                               
the Division of Elections.                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
8:27:26 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
GAIL  FENUMIAI, Director,  Division of  Elections, Office  of the                                                               
Lieutenant   Governor,  responded   to   concerns  expressed   by                                                               
Representative  Johansen pertaining  to  comments  made by  Larry                                                               
Benson about  the susceptibility  of voting machines  to hackers,                                                               
in a letter to Representative  Petersen, dated 1/18/12.  She said                                                               
voting  by  mail and  voting  electronically  are "two  different                                                               
animals."    When  people  vote by  mail,  she  explained,  their                                                               
ballots are  returned to  the division,  which scans  the ballots                                                               
through  the  same  machine  that  is used  by  voters  in  their                                                               
precincts.   She stated that  the division's voting  equipment is                                                               
safe  and secure  and  thoroughly tested  before  and after  each                                                               
election, so  "voting by  mail would  not have  an impact  on the                                                               
security of how results are reported to the state."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
8:30:12 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. FENUMIAI, in  response to Chair Lynn, reported  that in 2010,                                                               
45,769 registered  voters applied to  vote by mail, but  she said                                                               
she does  not know without  researching what percentage  of those                                                               
ballots were returned.   She said not everyone who  gets a ballot                                                               
returns it, but a high percentage does.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:31:22 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FENUMIAI,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Keller regarding  the fiscal  note, said  changing the  status of                                                               
each registered  voter who chose  to apply for  lifetime absentee                                                               
voting would  require some enhancements  to the  division's voter                                                               
registration system, and the cost of  doing so is estimated to be                                                               
$21,000.   She indicated that as  a matter of due  diligence, the                                                               
division  would contact  those  who had  signed  up for  lifetime                                                               
absentee voting,  to ensure that  the addresses the  division has                                                               
on  file are  accurate, and  any letters  returned would  let the                                                               
division know who should no longer  be on the list.  That mailing                                                               
cost is  anticipated to be $20,000.   In response to  a follow-up                                                               
question,  she said  it is  unknown  how many  people would  take                                                               
advantage of this process if made  available.  She said that when                                                               
ordering ballots,  the division always anticipates  a higher than                                                               
normal turnout,  so she does  not anticipate needing to  order an                                                               
increased amount of ballots.  She  said there is a certain period                                                               
of  time in  which the  division  must process  ballots, and  the                                                               
workload fluctuates from  election to election.   She stated that                                                               
she does  not foresee any  additional cost related to  staff time                                                               
in processing ballots.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
8:34:03 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FENUMIAI,  in response  to  the  chair, confirmed  that  the                                                               
absentee  voter is  responsible for  paying for  postage to  mail                                                               
his/her ballot back to the division.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:34:40 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. FENUMIAI,  in response to  a question from  Representative P.                                                               
Wilson, said the  process for purging voter names  from the voter                                                               
list is done  annually and is outlined in statute.   She said the                                                               
division  used to  remove  people  from the  voter  list if  they                                                               
failed to  vote, but  under the  National Voter  Registration Act                                                               
that  is  no  longer  allowed.     She  offered  further  details                                                               
regarding  the  process,  including that  the  division  receives                                                               
notifications from  other states  and notifications of  a voter's                                                               
death.   She  said the  division  looks at  local newspapers  and                                                               
obituaries.   In response  to Chair Lynn,  she said  the division                                                               
does not  always find out about  Alaska residents who die  out of                                                               
the state.   In  response to Representative  P. Wilson,  she said                                                               
the  division looks  at the  on line  versions of  Alaska's major                                                               
newspapers.    In  response  to   Chair  Lynn,  she  offered  her                                                               
understanding  that there  is nothing  in  statute that  requires                                                               
mortuaries or funeral homes to  notify the state when someone has                                                               
died; however, they are responsible  for getting that information                                                               
to Social Security.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
8:39:35 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE PETERSEN  said any "black hole"  that exists would                                                               
still exist under HB 260,  because the proposed legislation would                                                               
not change procedures.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN said  the committee discussion has gone  down a rabbit                                                               
trail, with many points of interest along the route.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:40:01 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  P.   WILSON  said   any  black  hole   should  be                                                               
considered because HB 260 is  proposing something permanent.  She                                                               
expressed concern about fraud.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
8:41:37 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FENUMIAI,  in response  to  a  question from  Representative                                                               
Johansen, said  she feels that  the division  does a good  job of                                                               
removing people from  the voter rolls in  accordance with federal                                                               
law.   She  expressed her  wish that  there was  a better  way to                                                               
receive notification regarding [Alaskan  residents] who have died                                                               
while out of  the state.  She said the  division gets information                                                               
from vital  statistics regarding  deaths in  the state  of Alaska                                                               
and  receives  information  from the  Department  of  Corrections                                                               
(DOC)  regarding  people  who have  been  convicted  of  felonies                                                               
involving  moral turpitude,  and the  division inactivates  their                                                               
records.   She  said she  thinks the  division does  a good  job,                                                               
based on current law.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:42:33 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  P.  WILSON  explained  that  the  reason  she  is                                                               
pursuing this issue is because  a couple years ago in Petersburg,                                                               
Alaska, a widow was upset that  her dead husband's name was still                                                               
on the voter's list.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FENUMIAI replied  that  it is  not a  perfect  system.   She                                                               
ventured that if funeral homes  were required to report deaths to                                                               
the division  as they  are currently required  to report  them to                                                               
Social Security, then that would be of help.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN  suggested that until  such a  law can be  passed, the                                                               
division could  send out  a letter  requesting such  reporting be                                                               
done.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
8:44:03 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  cautioned  that  it  would  be  easy  for                                                               
someone who  moves into an apartment  and finds a ballot  among a                                                               
stack of mail addressed to  previous residents to commit fraud by                                                               
voting on that ballot.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MS. FENUMIAI  stated that  in her  experience with  the division,                                                               
there has  not been any  experience of fraud in  absentee voting.                                                               
She  said Alaska's  absentee ballots  require a  witness, so  two                                                               
people would have to be in on the fraud.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
8:45:22 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  cited  AS  15.56.040,  which  read  as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Sec. 15.56.040.  Voter misconduct in the first degree.                                                                     
          (a) A person commits the crime of voter                                                                               
     misconduct in the first degree if the person                                                                               
          (1) votes or attempts to vote in the name of                                                                          
     another person  or in  a name  other than  the person's                                                                    
     own;                                                                                                                       
          (2) votes or attempts to vote more than once at                                                                       
     the  same election  with the  intent that  the person's                                                                    
     vote be counted more than once;                                                                                            
          (3) intentionally makes a false affidavit, swears                                                                     
     falsely, or  falsely affirms under an  oath required by                                                                    
     this title;                                                                                                                
          (4) knowingly votes or solicits a person to vote                                                                      
     after the  polls are  closed with  the intent  that the                                                                    
     vote be counted.                                                                                                           
          (b) Voter misconduct in the first degree is a                                                                         
     class C felony.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  cited  AS  15.56.050,  which  read  as                                                               
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Sec.  15.56.050.    Voter   misconduct  in  the  second                                                                    
     degree.                                                                                                                    
          (a) A person commits the crime of voter                                                                               
     misconduct in the second degree if the person                                                                              
          (1) registers to vote without being entitled to                                                                       
     register under AS 15.07.030;                                                                                               
          (2) knowingly makes a material false statement                                                                        
     while    applying    for    voter    registration    or                                                                    
     reregistration; or                                                                                                         
          (3) votes or attempts to vote in an election                                                                          
     after being disqualified under AS 15.05.030.                                                                               
         (b) Voter misconduct in the second degree is a                                                                         
     class A misdemeanor.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG offered  his  understanding that  there                                                               
are no "reported decisions on this."                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
8:47:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KELLER  indicated that fraud would  be made easier                                                               
under  the proposed  legislation, and  he said  he would  like to                                                               
know if "any action's been taken on the law."                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
8:49:11 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  returned  to the  aforementioned  APWU                                                               
letter,  and pointed  to a  paragraph on  the second  page, which                                                               
names  the  percentage of  votes  submitted  by mail  in  various                                                               
states.  He suggested that the  committee could find out if fraud                                                               
increased in those other states.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN remarked that most people  don't take the time to read                                                               
the statutes before committing a crime.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
8:52:05 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TRAVIS LEWIS, Vice President, Alaskans  for Alaska, noted that he                                                               
also  was the  former  Vice  Chair of  the  Elfin Cove  Nonprofit                                                               
Corporation.  He  said in the last election, 42  people showed up                                                               
to  vote in  Elfin  Cove; at  least 20  admitted  that they  were                                                               
residents of another state.  Mr.  Lewis said it is scary to think                                                               
that  someone could  become a  permanent  absentee voter  without                                                               
having to live  in Alaska.  He gave examples  of people who don't                                                               
live  in Alaska  making decisions  that affect  locals and  being                                                               
given  opportunities  not  given  some  locals.    He  urged  the                                                               
committee to take  a strong stand against allowing  ballots to be                                                               
forwarded outside  of Alaska.   He stated,  "If there's a  way to                                                               
cheat, they will."                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
8:58:49 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  said  he   does  not  think  Mr.  Lewis's                                                               
testimony is  inconsistent with  that of Ms.  Fenumiai.   He said                                                               
the forwarding of ballots is not supposed to happen.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEWIS  said he  has lived  in Elfin Cove  since 1964,  and he                                                               
emphasized, "There's not a lot of enforcement at our level."                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:00:38 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SEATON asked  Mr. Lewis if his  primary concern is                                                               
that people are  allowed to live out of state  and vote absentee,                                                               
or that he wants those people to have to apply annually.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEWIS  answered that  he thinks  it is too  easy to  become a                                                               
registered voter  in Alaska.   He questioned  why someone  who is                                                               
only  here from  May through  August can  have an  impact on  the                                                               
local politics  of Alaska.   He reiterated  his request  that the                                                               
legislature  be   cautious  about  allowing   permanent  absentee                                                               
ballots.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:04:58 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  P.  WILSON  offered her  understanding  that  the                                                               
point Mr. Lewis  is making is that "there are  people that aren't                                                               
really  residents of  the state  that have  a voter  registration                                                               
already" and  "can you imagine what  it would be like  if we say,                                                               
'Oh, well, we'll permanently do this.'?"                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. LEWIS concurred.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:05:58 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAUL  LARRY BENSON,  JR., American  Postal Workers  Union (APWU),                                                               
reviewed that  presently people must  register yearly to  be able                                                               
to vote  absentee ballot by  mail; under  HB 260, a  person would                                                               
only have  to register  once, provided  he/she continued  to vote                                                               
subsequent  years.   Further,  he  noted, HB  260  would allow  a                                                               
person  who was  dropped  from the  by-mail  voter list,  because                                                               
he/she did  not vote,  to reapply  for permanent  absentee voting                                                               
status.   He observed  that HB  260 would  not allow  a permanent                                                               
absentee ballot to be forwarded  anywhere.  He noted that current                                                               
law does  not allow ballots to  be forwarded.  He  said when APWU                                                               
returns the  ballots to the  division, then that will  help clean                                                               
up the voter roll.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENSON,  JR., regarding the  security of ballots,  said while                                                               
USPS  is the  means  of  delivery of  those  ballots, the  United                                                               
States Postal  Inspection Service (USPIS)  and the Office  of the                                                               
Inspector General (OIG) are the  law enforcement divisions of the                                                               
United States Postal Service.  He  stated that if there is fraud,                                                               
those  divisions will  find out,  because they  have the  highest                                                               
criminal conviction rates of anyone.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:08:32 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENSON,  JR., described  the method  by which  USPS separates                                                               
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax  returns, and he said ballots,                                                               
like tax returns, are highly  recognizable.  He related that USPS                                                               
has an  on-time delivery rating  of 96-98  percent.  He  said the                                                               
"approval rating"  in Oregon  is 81 percent.   He  said currently                                                               
about 45,000 ballots  are "going out in elections."   He ventured                                                               
that  offering permanent  absentee voting  status would  increase                                                               
the number  of people who chose  that method, and he  listed some                                                               
for whom absentee  voting may be a  preference, including working                                                               
parents,  the elderly,  and disabled  people.   Mr. Benson,  Jr.,                                                               
proffered  that when  a  ballot  arrives in  the  mail,  it is  a                                                               
reminder for  the person  receiving it  to begin  studying, which                                                               
would  eliminate  "in the  booth"  decision-making.   He  further                                                               
ventured there would be a cost savings [to the division].                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:11:00 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENSON, JR.,  regarding concern about a paper  trail, said it                                                               
will not necessarily  come from USPS.  He  reminded the committee                                                               
that Ms. Fenumiai  had said that computer hacking has  not been a                                                               
problem.   He  relayed that  17  states use  absentee voting  and                                                               
voter fraud has not increased as a result.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
9:12:54 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. BENSON, JR., in response to  Chair Lynn, confirmed that he is                                                               
speaking on behalf  of APWU, but added that he  has the authority                                                               
to  speak on  behalf  of  the national  union.    In response  to                                                               
Representative  Keller,  he  said  the  national  union  supports                                                               
absentee voting, but does not  actively campaign to get people to                                                               
vote.   He  admitted that  an increase  in absentee  voting would                                                               
mean an increase in revenue for USPS.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:14:47 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
PAT  LUBY,  Advocacy  Director, AARP  Alaska,  stated  that  AARP                                                               
supports any  means to  encourage people to  vote.   He concurred                                                               
with the  bill sponsor that older  people are most likely  to use                                                               
absentee voting.   He said  making the process permanent  will is                                                               
beneficial for older voters and  would make every election easier                                                               
for them.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:16:51 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
JOHN  HOLLAWAY,  testifying  on   behalf  of  himself,  expressed                                                               
concern that  a permanent  status would  take away  the necessary                                                               
hurdles of applying  annually, without which, the  voter roll may                                                               
not be accurate.  Regarding forwarding  of mail, he said there is                                                               
identification posted  on mail that  cannot be forwarded,  and he                                                               
offered his  understanding that the  window for forwarding  is 18                                                               
months.   He  said, "...  The voter  registration thing  that Ms.                                                               
Fenumiai  was  mentioning  -  that  item,  I  believe,  would  be                                                               
forwarded to  the new address,  where a person could  take action                                                               
to ensure that  they stayed on the registration for  voting.  I'm                                                               
not sure that  there's anything in place that twill  be done with                                                               
the permanent absentee voting."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:19:39 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN,  after ascertaining  that there was  no one  else who                                                               
wished to testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:20:53 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS.  FENUMIAI, in  response to  Representative  Seaton, said  the                                                               
proposed  legislation  would  neither change  when  the  division                                                               
mails out  ballots nor  the timing  of receiving,  reviewing, and                                                               
counting  ballots.   In  response to  a  follow-up question,  she                                                               
said,  "I did  not see  anything in  this bill  that changed  the                                                               
current   witnessing   requirement   of  either   someone   who's                                                               
authorized to witness an oath or one person over the age of 18."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:22:41 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  PETERSEN highlighted  language on  page 3,  lines                                                               
13-15, which read as follows:                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
               (i) If a voter designated as a permanent                                                                         
     absentee  voter under  this section  does  not vote  or                                                                    
     appear  to  vote  in a  primary,  special,  or  general                                                                    
     election  for  a period  of  four  calendar years,  the                                                                    
     director  shall remove  the voter's  permanent absentee                                                                    
     voter status.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
9:23:38 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN announced that HB 260 was held over.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
                     HB 287-ABSENTEE VOTING                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:23:55 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN  announced that the  last order of business  was HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 287, "An Act relating to absentee voting."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:24:19 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG,  as sponsor, reviewed that  at the last                                                               
hearing  of HB  287 [on  1/26/12], the  committee had  adopted an                                                               
amendment to remove  Section 1 of the original bill  version.  He                                                               
said  there  is  a  proposed committee  substitute,  Version  27-                                                               
LS1211\D,  Bullard,   1/27/12,  in  the  committee   packet  that                                                               
reflects that amendment.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:25:07 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER  moved  to adopt  the  proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS), Version  27-LS1211\D,  Bullard,  1/27/12, as  a                                                               
work draft.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON objected for the purpose of discussion.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:25:58 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG said  Version  D  would remove  current                                                               
statute  language from  the  bill, because  that  language is  no                                                               
longer  necessary.   He  explained that  current  state law  only                                                               
covers military  and overseas  voters, and  Version D  would give                                                               
every qualified  voter registered  in Alaska  the right  to apply                                                               
for absentee  voting status  that would be  good for  four years.                                                               
Each  time the  qualified absentee  voter casts  a vote,  his/her                                                               
absentee  ballot  status  would   automatically  be  renewed  for                                                               
another four years, in a rolling  manner.  He noted that the term                                                               
"overseas"  is  somewhat  of  a  misnomer,  because  it  actually                                                               
includes Alaska residents who live anywhere outside of Alaska.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
9:29:32 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
TED  MADSEN, Staff,  Representative Max  Gruenberg, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  on  behalf  of Representative  Gruenberg,  sponsor,                                                               
offered further information regarding  the cyclical nature of the                                                               
bill.   He explained that under  HB 287, if a  qualified absentee                                                               
voter votes in  person, then the cyclical  repeating system would                                                               
no longer be valid.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG confirmed that is correct.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:30:43 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON  removed her objection to  the motion to                                                               
adopt  the  proposed  committee   substitute  (CS),  Version  27-                                                               
LS1211\D,  Bullard, 1/27/12,  as a  work draft.   There  being no                                                               
further objection, Version D was before the committee.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:31:09 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
GAIL  FENUMIAI, Director,  Division of  Elections, Office  of the                                                               
Lieutenant Governor, said the division  currently has an extended                                                               
ballot option for  military and overseas voters,  and "this would                                                               
just extend that to non-military and overseas voters."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:31:46 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR LYNN,  after ascertaining  that there was  no one  else who                                                               
wished to testify, closed public testimony.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:31:56 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON   said  [Version  D]   allows  safeguarded                                                               
procedures to  all Alaskans that were  up to now allowed  only to                                                               
military and  overseas voters,  and he  indicated that  he thinks                                                               
that is something that should be done.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  noted that  Version D has  an immediate                                                               
effective  date,   which  allows  the  division   to  attempt  to                                                               
implement  the  proposed  legislation  in time  for  the  primary                                                               
election.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:33:26 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  moved to  adopt Conceptual  Amendment 1                                                               
to Version D, to draft a  bill title that is as narrowly tailored                                                               
to Version D as possible.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:33:56 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  objected to comment that  in general, he                                                               
is not  comfortable giving broad directives  to Legislative Legal                                                               
and Research Services.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN removed his objection.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG offered  to address  the bill  title in                                                               
the next committee of referral.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN said it is the will of the committee.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  LYNN  announced that  there  being  no further  objection,                                                               
Conceptual Amendment 1 was adopted.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:35:07 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JOHANSEN  asked for  confirmation that  the change                                                               
of the effective  date is an option for the  division rather than                                                               
a directive, because  it could be possible that  the division may                                                               
not  be able  to  make  the necessary  changes  in  time for  the                                                               
primary election.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:36:36 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. FENUMIAI, in  response to the bill sponsor,  said because the                                                               
current election year  has already begun and  people have already                                                               
begun  applying for  absentee ballots,  it would  provide a  more                                                               
even playing field if the effective  date was changed to the 2014                                                               
elections.   In  response to  Representative Gruenberg,  she said                                                               
she thinks the effective date could be January 1, 2013.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:37:19 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  moved to  adopt Amendment 2,  to change                                                               
the  effective  date  to  1/1/13.    There  being  no  objection,                                                               
Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:38:23 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  KELLER offered  his understanding  that when  the                                                               
legislature  originally  passed  legislation to  accommodate  the                                                               
military, it envisioned patriots  overseas risking everything for                                                               
the state.  Now, he opined,  that right is being extended to some                                                               
people who  are living part of  the year Outside and  part of the                                                               
year  in Alaska.   He  said  the proposed  legislation extends  a                                                               
right   with    which   he    is   not    entirely   comfortable.                                                               
Notwithstanding that, he said he would not hold up the bill.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:39:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  SEATON  moved to  report  CSHB  287, Version  27-                                                               
LS1211\D,  Bullard, 1/27/12,  as amended,  out of  committee with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  the  accompanying fiscal  notes.                                                               
There being No objection, CSHB 287(STA) was reported out of                                                                     
committee.                                                                                                                      

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
04bHB287-OOG-DOE-1-27-12.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 287
01 HB0260A.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 260
02 HB 260 Sponsor Statement.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 260
03 HB 260 Sectional Analysis.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 260
04 HB 260 Letters of Support - APWU.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 260
05 HB260-OOG-DOE-1-28-12.pdf HSTA 2/2/2012 8:00:00 AM
HB 260