Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
02/08/2005 03:30 PM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 76-ELECTIONS CHAIR THERRIALUT announced SB 76 to be up for consideration and that he didn't intend to move the bill that day. He asked Laura Glaiser to come forward. LAURA GLAISER, Division of Elections director, explained that the notations in the sectional analysis for SB 76 indicate the portions that already received considerable discussion last session. She described many of the changes as housekeeping measures that relate to: voter residency and reference to temporary construction camps; registration; the option to give special power of attorney; the ability to scan a document as an application; transmission by facsimile; and early voting sites. 4:38:34 PM CHAIR THERRIALUT announced that because this was an overview of the bill, members should feel free to pose questions at any time. SENATOR ELTON referenced Section 6 that applies to notification and questioned how you might apply the language change from "a newspaper published in the House district" to "a newspaper available in the House district" in all areas. It makes sense in Juneau, he said, but the residents of Metlakatla and Cordova probably subscribe to different papers. MS. GLAISER said regional supervisors anticipate that and have clerks become familiar with the communities in which they train the poll workers so that they know which paper is likely to reach the most people. SENATOR ELTON asked if the practice would be to publish in both ends of a district if it is as spread out as the Metlakatla to Cordova House District. MS. GLAISER replied regional supervisors make those kinds of decisions. 4:41:55 PM CHAIR THERRIALUT remarked newspapers aren't necessarily published in the same area in which they're circulated. MS. GLAISER said Sections 7, 16, 17, and 18 relate to independent presidential and vice presidential candidates because there were no statutory provisions to deal with those candidates in the last election. The changes treat them as party candidates so the candidate name appears on the ballot. The change in Section 16 places more onus on an independent presidential candidate than there would be on a party candidate, she said, but it's to show a tie to an Alaskan base and validate an Alaska candidacy. MS. GLAISER said from Section 19 on most of the bill relates to initiative, referendum and recall petitions. 4:44:57 PM SENATOR ELTON asked whether the paper backup that was discussed last year meshed with Section 15. MS. GLAISER replied that section relates to standards for voting machines. It says the "Division of Elections will only utilize systems certified by the FEC [Federal Election Commission] and all updates to data management systems must be certified before the state implements the system." 4:46:33 PM MS. GLAISER continued her explanation and said sections 19 and on relate to petitions and recall. They added the requirement for a printed name and birth date when an application for a petition is signed. This will aid data entry when qualifying voters share the same name. 4:47:50 PM SENATOR ELTON said he was curious as to why the additional identifier was restricted to the date of birth. 4:48:26 PM MS. GLAISER replied the date of birth is the only voter identification that is required on an application and all the others identifiers are optional. CHAIR THERRIAULT added everyone knows his or her date of birth, but not everyone memorizes a Social Security or driver's license number. MS. GLAISER said this was a best effort attempt to qualify more people. Lieutenant Governor Leman would also like the date the petition is signed added as a requirement. This information would make it possible to determine whether or not a petition signer was a registered voter at the time of the signing. Currently it's not clear that you're required to be a registered voter when you sign a petition. By statute, petition books may circulate for a year after which the signatures are verified. The division qualifies the signature after the petition book is submitted, but that doesn't mean the signer was a qualified voter at the time he or she signed the petition. As written, SB 76 does not require a date when signing a petition. If that's an important policy change, you might want to consider an amendment, she said. 4:51:44 PM SENATOR ELTON recapped saying: "There is a possibility that there could be a requirement that date of birth is important and if you're going to be old enough to vote at the time the initiative is on the ballot that could be something this committee or another committee of the Legislature could decide to use as a cut-off point or whether they were a registered voter at the time they signed the petition book." MS. GLAISER replied the division believes that if a voter is qualified at the time of data entry, he or she is a qualified voter, but they have no way of determining whether or not that person is qualified when they signed because no date is required when signing. A date column could be added to the petition book if that's what you want, she said. 4:53:24 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT asked for clarification because graduating seniors are encouraged to register to vote if they would be of age before the election. MS. GLAISER replied an applicant becomes a qualified voter on the day they register, but they can't access a ballot because registration must occur at least 90 days before an election. However, it would be a test if a special election were to occur prior to that 90 days. CHAIR THERRIAULT asked what date you would be a qualified voter if you turned 18 the day before the November election. MS. GLAISER said according to statutory language a person is a qualified voter when the data entry is completed, but their ballot would count only if their birthday fell 90 days prior to the election. 4:55:06 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT questioned whether a 16 year old could sign up because he or she would be qualified to vote two years hence. MS. GLAISER said no. CHAIR THERRIAULT agreed that they wouldn't be able to vote, but he was curious whether they could fill out the application and send it in. MS. GLAISER said it's a question of semantics. "Yes they could send it in; no they would not become a qualified voter." The key is 90 days prior to the election, she said. 4:55:56 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT questioned how that matches with the initiative process. He asked whether a 17 year old could sign an initiative booklet since they can circulate for up to a year. 4:56:20 PM MS. GLAISER replied she wasn't sure, but if a person signed and they were in the database, the signature would qualify. CHAIR THERRIAULT remarked they couldn't be in the database unless they were qualified a maximum of 90 days prior to an election. He asked her to continue. MS. GLAISER agreed then went on to explain that petition circulators are required to sign an affidavit stating that they are at least 18 years of age, an Alaskan resident, and a U.S. citizen. Being a registered voter is not a requirement. They found that in initiatives requirements were different for signers, circulators and sponsors so the division made changes to make the rules the same for initiative, referendum and recall signers. To add continuity, Section 34 requires the printed name and date of birth to be included when signing a recall application and removes the requirement for the additional 100 qualified voter signatures. Also, the three sponsors must provide names, mailing addresses and signatures. Section 37 removes language referring to a "duplicate copy" because none are assigned in a recall petition effort. After that, posting requirements were changed in initiative, referendum and recall petitions. 5:00:15 PM Section 43 defines voters that are not affiliated with a party because there was no statutory provision to do so and Section 44 relates to recognized party status. The division wanted bright lines set for verifying a political party, when it becomes a political group and how it would reaffirm its status as a political party. Section 45 relates to the definition of "re-registration" and "statewide office." Sections 46-48 include recommendations to Title 29 from Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED) that works with local elections. 5:04:11 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT asked whether committee members had any questions. There being none, he asked Linda Murphy whether she had concerns about specific sections of the bill. 5:04:36 PM LINDA MURPHY, Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk, said she was concerned about the sections related to registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot through power of attorney because it might open the door to voter fraud. This state makes it very easy to register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot so consider this section carefully before you act on it, she cautioned. CHAIR THERRIAULT informed Ms. Murphy that SB 36 deals with that section but it doesn't include scanning language. They are trying to make it clear that no party or person may position themselves between the ballot applicant and the Division of Elections for processing sensitive personal information. "I wouldn't want to open up a big loophole by allowing it to be done by an affidavit so that section may come out of the bill altogether," he said. MS. MURPHY said she had similar concerns about the section that deals with registration using power of attorney. 5:06:27 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT asked Ms. Glaiser to respond. MS. GLAISER explained that she made a commitment to family members with spouses or children who were stationed overseas unexpectedly. The recommendation was for a special power of attorney that would be specific to voter registration or changing an absentee ballot application. CHAIR THERRIAULT said he wasn't sure why an individual wouldn't have time to address Division of Elections business if they had time to tend to the power of attorney and other paperwork in preparation for leaving. LAURA GLAISER replied she was ready to accept any decision the committee made in that regard. To honor her promise she put the suggestion out for discussion. 5:08:55 PM LINDA MURPHY said she was referring to the initial voter registration and she wouldn't necessarily object to someone correcting a mailing address for a loved one who was overseas. She agreed with Chair Therriault that if a person had the time to fill out paperwork for a power of attorney then they would have time to go online and get a voter registration application and get it to the Division of Elections. SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS said he could understand the reasoning, but it could open Pandora's Box. 5:10:47 PM CHAIR THERRIAULT said the policy balance is to accommodate the few but not open Pandora's Box to the many. Finding no further questions, Chair Therriault encouraged members to read the bill carefully and highlight any questions so they could be addressed in a committee substitute (CS) before the bill was heard again. CHAIR THERRIAULT held SB 76 in committee and adjourned the meeting at 5:11:21 PM.