Legislature(2019 - 2020)GRUENBERG 120
04/18/2019 03:00 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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HB 115-ABSENTEE VOTING 3:29:48 PM CO-CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 115, "An Act relating to absentee voting; and providing for an effective date." 3:30:23 PM MICHAEL MASON, Staff, Representative Chris Tuck, Alaska State Legislature, on behalf of Representative Tuck, prime sponsor, informed the committee that earlier that day he had presented HB 115 to the Alaska Commission on Aging, and following that presentation, the commission informed him that it would endorse the bill, which would put in place a permanent absentee voting system in Alaska. 3:31:28 PM CO-CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opened public testimony on HB 115. 3:31:36 PM EVAN ANDERSON, Civic Engagement Manager, Alaska Center Education Fund (ACEF), stated that ACEF believes democracy in Alaska is strongest when there is full participation across the electorate. He said permanent absentee voting would be "a major win" for students, "people of varying abilities," and the elderly. He surmised that the chances someone will vote again are higher if his/her [absentee] ballot is delivered automatically. He mentioned there are 11 other states that do this, and he remarked that Alaskans "stand on the shoulders" of its civil rights heroes, such as Elizabeth Peratrovich. He concluded by stating his support for HB 115. 3:33:46 PM VERI DI SUVERO, Executive Director, Alaska Public Interest Research Group (AKPIRG), related that AKPIRG protects consumers and ensures the best possible governance in Alaska. She said AKPIRG supports permanent absentee voting, "because every American has the fundamental right to vote and have that vote counted." She talked about the ability to do most things via computer or smart phone; therefore, she reasoned that there is "no reason that signing up to receive a ballot shouldn't be easy and accurate and accessible." She opined that permanent absentee voting would ensure that Alaska's electorate receives the best process for voting possible. She said there are eight states, as well as Washington, D.C., that maintain a permanent absentee ballot list. She expressed support of HB 115. CO-CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS, after ascertaining that there was no one else who wished to testify, closed public testimony on HB 115. 3:35:56 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY expressed appreciation for the information from Barbara Jones, Municipal Clerk, Municipality of Anchorage, about ensuring that a voter does not vote absentee and then show up at the polls to vote again. She questioned whether this [method] was in place in other parts of the state. 3:36:59 PM GAIL FENUMIAI, Director, Division of Elections, Office of the Lieutenant Governor, stated that since Anchorage [uses] "an all by-mail system," its security measures are different. She said, "The State of Alaska would still need to be producing precinct registers, and those precinct registers would be marked ... 'applied for by-mail ballot' or 'applied for absentee ballot'." She added, "If someone was to show up and vote at the polls, and insist on voting, we would require them to vote a question ballot; that would be the division's policy to ensure that if they already voted a by-mail ballot and sent it in, ... there would not be duplicate voting going on." 3:38:08 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked for clarification as to how that would work. MS. FENUMIAI explained that in order to ensure duplicate voting doesn't occur, notation needs to be made in the precinct register showing when people have voted by mail or voted early. With that notation made, the polling place worker would then tell the voter who comes to the precinct voting location that he/she must use a question ballot. All ballots that come back to the regional offices are logged, reviewed, and entered into the voter registration system; therefore, there is a method to determine whether a by-mail ballot was received before the question ballot. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked how the division knows a mailed ballot is from a particular voter. MS. FENUMIAI answered that three identifying items must be on the back of the by-mail envelope in order for the by-mail ballot to be counted: a witness, a voter "indentifier," and the voter's signature. 3:41:15 PM REPRESENTATIVE STORY said it was interesting to learn that the State of Colorado received 60 percent return rates in [by-mail] voting. She observed that information she read showed that Alaska's rate was 18 percent. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL said while he personally does not want a future where voting by mail is the only option, he supports getting more people to vote. 3:42:14 PM CO-CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS opined that HB 115 is "great," as well as "simple" and "straightforward." He explained that he would put aside HB 115 and bring it back at the end of the meeting when a quorum was present to vote on moving HB 115 out of committee. HB 115-ABSENTEE VOTING 4:16:08 PM CO-CHAIR KREISS-TOMKINS announced that the final order of business would be a return to HOUSE BILL NO. 115, "An Act relating to absentee voting; and providing for an effective date." 4:16:11 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL moved to report HB 115 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 115 was reported from the House State Affairs Standing Committee.