Legislature(2011 - 2012)BUTROVICH 205

02/03/2011 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
           SB   7-FELONS' RIGHT TO VOTE OR BE JURORS                                                                        
9:00:42 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  announced the  first order of  business would                                                               
be SB 7.                                                                                                                        
SENATOR DAVIS,  sponsor of  SB 7,  stated this  is not  the first                                                               
time  this bill  has  been  introduced, but  it  is an  important                                                               
9:01:19 AM                                                                                                                    
TOM  OBERMEYER,  staff  to  Senator   Bettye  Davis,  noted  that                                                               
currently the right to vote remains  suspended from the date of a                                                               
felony conviction to  the date of release from  all provisions of                                                               
the sentence, including probation  and parole. Harsher sentencing                                                               
laws  have  allowed  the  prison  population  to  balloon,  while                                                               
reducing rehabilitative  programs to almost  nonexistent. Article                                                               
1, Section 12, of the  Alaska Constitution requires that criminal                                                               
administration   shall   be   based  upon   the   philosophy   of                                                               
reformation. He  stated that  in 2009  more than  10,000 Alaskans                                                               
were ineligible  to vote  pursuant to  this provision.  In Alaska                                                               
the prison  population increased  from 800  prisoners in  1984 to                                                               
over 5,000  prisoners in 2008,  an increase of over  600 percent.                                                               
Of those  incarcerated in Alaska,  48 percent were  Caucasian and                                                               
52 percent were minorities.                                                                                                     
MR. OBERMEYER  said that felons  face discrimination as  they try                                                               
to  reenter society,  and that  restoring  the right  to vote  is                                                               
critical to successful reentry  into society after incarceration,                                                               
and is  consistent with the  modern ideal of  universal suffrage.                                                               
He  added  that SB  7  would  limit disenfranchisement  to  those                                                               
actually incarcerated,  and would give  felons the right  to vote                                                               
upon   release.  Felon   disenfranchisement  standards   rest  on                                                               
outdated  practices,  and  former   U.S.  Supreme  Court  Justice                                                               
Marshall said it is doubtful  whether any state can demonstrate a                                                               
compelling interest in denying felons the right to vote.                                                                        
MR. OBERMEYER noted that the bill has a zero fiscal note.                                                                       
9:06:54 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER asked how "moral turpitude" is defined.                                                                           
MR. OBERMEYER  replied it  is defined  under AS  15.80.010(9) [AS                                                               
15.05.030(a)]  as  "those  crimes   that  are  immoral  or  wrong                                                               
themselves, such  as murder."  There appears  to be  no statutory                                                               
reference to felonies not involving moral turpitude.                                                                            
SENATOR  MEYER  then asked  for  a  definition of  "unconditional                                                               
9:09:18 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  OBERMEYER  responded  that  is a  better  question  for  Ms.                                                               
Gutierrez, but  the purpose of  SB 7  is to let  felony offenders                                                               
vote  immediately   upon  release  from  prison,   regardless  of                                                               
unconditional discharge.                                                                                                        
SENATOR MEYER  asked if  a person still  on probation  has served                                                               
his or her full sentence.                                                                                                       
MR. OBERMEYER responded  that probation is a  historic process of                                                               
allowing people to  perform while out of prison. The  only way to                                                               
easily administer this bill is  to give released felons the right                                                               
to vote  immediately. He noted  that if they  are reincarcerated,                                                               
then  their voting  rights can  be  taken away  again. They  have                                                               
served  good time  in  order  to get  parole,  and hopefully  are                                                               
better citizens when they are released.                                                                                         
SENATOR MEYER stated concern that  a person still on parole could                                                               
serve on a jury if SB 7 passes.                                                                                                 
9:12:40 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  replied that there is  no way to know  what people                                                               
will do  once released; but hopefully  they want to do  the right                                                               
thing,  and that  continued retribution  hinders  the process  of                                                               
reintegrating into society.                                                                                                     
SENATOR  GIESSEL said  that  some of  the  felonies that  involve                                                               
moral  turpitude   are  sexual  abuse,  incest,   perjury,  child                                                               
pornography, endangering  the welfare of  a minor, and  misuse of                                                               
controlled substances. Some of these  have high recidivism rates,                                                               
and she is concerned about giving  felons the right to vote while                                                               
on probation. Current  law says that after a  felon has completed                                                               
parole or  probation, their  rights are  restored; in  fact, more                                                               
than  17,000 felons  had their  voting rights  restored in  2008-                                                               
9:14:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  said he doesn't see  this as a problem,  and noted                                                               
that  some states  don't  even  take voting  rights  away upon  a                                                               
felony   conviction.   He   further  stated   that   the   Alaska                                                               
constitution  is pointing  toward a  model of  rehabilitation and                                                               
reformation.  People must  have  their civil  rights restored  in                                                               
order to  be able to  vote. With modern procedures,  the Division                                                               
of Elections can change a  person's status on-line. Mr. Obermeyer                                                               
also  said  that the  ACLU  cites  a  study indicating  that  the                                                               
numbers  of people  who have  been re-enfranchised  shows a  link                                                               
between voting  participation and re-offense; those  who vote are                                                               
half as likely to be re-arrested.                                                                                               
9:18:53 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI noted  this  is a  good  discussion to  have,                                                               
because  recidivism is  a revolving  door  and the  costs to  the                                                               
state are enormous.                                                                                                             
9:19:26 AM                                                                                                                    
ANNE  CARPENETI, Assistant  Attorney General,  Criminal Division,                                                               
Department of  Law (DOL), stated  the department's  concerns with                                                               
SB  7  are  legal,  not   philosophical,  although  the  criminal                                                               
division  does  have  concerns  about  people  who  are  recently                                                               
released from  incarceration serving on  juries. Philosophically,                                                               
the DOL  shares the  sponsor's concerns.  She explained  that the                                                               
legal  issue  is  difficult, because  the  constitution  is  very                                                               
clear; there is no right to  vote until the person's civil rights                                                               
are  restored. Serving  on a  jury or  possessing a  handgun, for                                                               
instance, are civil rights and  being on probation or parole does                                                               
restrict a person's civil rights.                                                                                               
9:21:50 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER asked  if being on probation is part  of a person's                                                               
MS.  CARPENETI  replied  yes,  probation is  still  part  of  the                                                               
sentence  and the  conditions of  probation do  limit a  person's                                                               
civil rights.                                                                                                                   
9:22:38 AM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR MEYER stated  the voting part doesn't bother  him as much                                                               
as someone serving on a jury while still on probation.                                                                          
MS. CARPENETI  responded that a  person becomes part of  the jury                                                               
pool by virtue of applying for a PFD.                                                                                           
SENATOR MEYER asked if a person  serving a sentence may receive a                                                               
MS. CARPENETI  replied that PFDs  are suspended for  most felons.                                                               
She  emphasized  that the  Department  of  Law  does not  have  a                                                               
position on  SB 7 at this  point, but there are  practical issues                                                               
that need to be considered.                                                                                                     
9:24:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  asked what part  of the constitution  she was                                                               
referring to.                                                                                                                   
MS. CARPENETI said that it was Article 5, Section 2.                                                                            
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI read  from that document, "No  person may vote                                                               
who has  been convicted  of a felony,  until that  person's civil                                                               
rights  have been  restored." So  the question  remains, at  what                                                               
point a person's civil rights are restored.                                                                                     
MS. CARPENETI responded that under  current law, a person who has                                                               
been  convicted of  a  felony  can vote  when  the conditions  of                                                               
probation  and  parole  have  been   satisfied.  She  noted  that                                                               
definition is in statute.                                                                                                       
9:25:20 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI asked  if restoration is automatic  or part of                                                               
a process.                                                                                                                      
MS. CARPENETI  responded that  she believes they  can just  go to                                                               
the Division of Elections and register.                                                                                         
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI asked  Mr. Obermeyer  to  walk the  committee                                                               
through the bill.                                                                                                               
9:26:20 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. OBERMEYER  said that  Section 1  would change  AS 9.20.020(2)                                                               
from a  person being disqualified  from serving as a  juror until                                                               
unconditional discharge to being  disqualified until release from                                                               
CHAIR   WIELECHOWSKI   asked   if  unconditional   discharge   is                                                               
MR. OBERMEYER answered  that the disability has to  be removed by                                                               
the Department of  Corrections, and they send  information to the                                                               
Division of Elections, then the person  has to go the Division of                                                               
Elections  and   reapply.  In  the  past,   this  happened  after                                                               
unconditional   discharge.  He   noted   that   in  some   cases,                                                               
restitution is also  involved, which makes it  more difficult for                                                               
people to have their civil rights restored.                                                                                     
9:29:35 AM                                                                                                                    
He further  explained that  Section 2  changes AS  15.05.30(a) to                                                               
provide that  a person  convicted of a  crime that  constitutes a                                                               
felony involving moral turpitude under  state or federal law will                                                               
be  advised of  voter  registration  requirements and  procedures                                                               
upon release,  and the  Division of  Corrections will  notify the                                                               
Division  of  Elections  that  the   person  is  entitled  to  be                                                               
registered as a voter. Section  3 changes AS 15.07.135 to provide                                                               
that  the voter  registration of  a person  convicted of  a crime                                                               
involving  moral  turpitude will  be  cancelled  only while  that                                                               
person   is  incarcerated,   instead  of   until  that   person's                                                               
unconditional  discharge  from  custody.  Section  4  changes  AS                                                               
33.30.241(a) to provide  that a person convicted of  a crime that                                                               
constitutes  a felony  involving moral  turpitude under  state or                                                               
federal  law  is  disqualified  from  voting  while  incarcerated                                                               
instead  of being  disqualified  from voting  until the  person's                                                               
unconditional discharge.                                                                                                        
9:30:58 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI asked why SB 7 includes federal law.                                                                         
MR.  OBEMEYER responded  that  many  felony offenders,  including                                                               
most  drug  offenses, wind  up  in  federal prisons.  He  further                                                               
stated that  Section 5 changes  AS 33.30.241(b) as it  relates to                                                               
jury duty, and  Section 6 repeals AS  15.60.010(39), a definition                                                               
of unconditional discharge, and  AS 33.30.241(c), a definition of                                                               
unconditional discharge.                                                                                                        
9:32:31 AM                                                                                                                    
ALPHEUS   BULLARD,  Attorney,   Legal   Services,  Alaska   State                                                               
Legislature, explained  that "federal" is  added on page  2, line                                                               
28, to create  a consistent standard. If someone is  able to vote                                                               
for governor or for mayor, they  should be able to vote for their                                                               
senator as well.                                                                                                                
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI asked what the current law is.                                                                               
MR. BULLARD  replied he  believes a convicted  felon who  has not                                                               
been unconditionally  discharged is unable  to vote in  a federal                                                               
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  asked what  is being  repealed in  Section 6,                                                               
with the reference to AS 33.30.241(c).                                                                                          
MR. BULLARD  responded that it  is a conforming reference  to the                                                               
definition  of  unconditional  discharge  that  is  found  at  AS                                                               
CHAIR   WIELECHOWSKI  asked,   "In  your   opinion  is   there  a                                                               
constitutional issue with this bill?"                                                                                           
MR. BULLARD stated that he does  not have a legal opinion on that                                                               
issue. He further stated that Article  5, Section 2 of the Alaska                                                               
State Constitution provides that a  person who has convicted of a                                                               
felony cannot  vote until  his civil  rights have  been restored.                                                               
What "civil rights being restored"  means for the purpose of this                                                               
clause has not been explored by our state's courts.                                                                             
9:36:19 AM                                                                                                                    
CARMEN GUTIERREZ, Deputy  Commissioner, Department of Corrections                                                               
(DOC), explained  she is responsible for  prisoner rehabilitation                                                               
and re-entry.  She said  that DOC is  committed to  upholding its                                                               
constitutional    responsibility    to   provide    reform    and                                                               
rehabilitation  for  persons  under  its  jurisdiction,  and  she                                                               
emphasized  that  they  are   trying  to  provide  rehabilitative                                                               
services  in  their  institutions,  and are  very  supportive  of                                                               
efforts to  reintegrate prisoners  into the community.  She noted                                                               
that in 2008  the DOC released 287 convicted  felons every month.                                                               
If  these  people are  not  successfully  reintegrated they  come                                                               
back;  Alaska's  recidivism rate  is  66  percent, and  most  are                                                               
within the first year of release.                                                                                               
MS.  GUTIERREZ further  noted that  page 2  of SB  7, under  (b),                                                               
states  "the   commissioner  of  corrections  shall   notify  the                                                               
director that the person is  entitled to be registered." She said                                                               
this  language makes  it appear  that the  commissioner is  being                                                               
asked to  render a  legal opinion,  and it  may be  better stated                                                               
that the person has been released from custody.                                                                                 
MS. GUTIERREZ also  said that, with regard to the  impact of SB 7                                                               
on  the   department,  when  an  individual   is  unconditionally                                                               
discharged from  probation, meaning he  or she has  satisfied all                                                               
conditions  of  probation  DOC  issues   a  notice  both  to  the                                                               
probationer and  the Division of  Elections. She noted it  may be                                                               
helpful  at  this point  to  understand  the differences  between                                                               
parole  and probation,  and between  mandatory and  discretionary                                                               
parole.  Discretionary  parole is  when  an  individual asks  for                                                               
early  release; if  the parole  board finds  it appropriate,  the                                                               
person will  be released  early. Mandatory  parole comes  when an                                                               
offender receives  the benefit  of good  time credit,  which most                                                               
offenders do; one-quarter  of their sentence is  reduced for good                                                               
behavior. She  further explained  that probation is  usually part                                                               
of a person's  sentence, and that mandatory  parole and probation                                                               
are  served at  the same  time;  probation can  be anywhere  from                                                               
three to  five to ten years.  In 2008 the DOC  released just over                                                               
1,700  people on  to parole  and  almost 7,000  on to  probation.                                                               
Today  the DOC  has  about 6,000  individuals  on probation,  and                                                               
approximately  850 are  on abscond  status, meaning  they are  no                                                               
longer  reporting,  and  warrants  have  been  issued  for  their                                                               
9:44:04 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  GUTIERREZ  further  explained  that  the  second  issue  for                                                               
consideration is  the filing  of petitions  to revoke  because of                                                               
failure to comply  with probation requirements. Over  a six month                                                               
period,  a   snapshot  review  showed  the   Anchorage  probation                                                               
department  filed 178  - 200  revocation  petitions every  month.                                                               
When  a  petition  to  revoke   probation  is  filed,  she  said,                                                               
sometimes  the  person is  arrested  quickly,  sometimes not.  So                                                               
there  could  be  some  record  keeping  logistics  in  terms  of                                                               
verifying  who is  incarcerated and  who is  not. She  emphasized                                                               
that  this is  something  to be  aware of,  but  the DOC  remains                                                               
supportive  of  all  efforts  to  rehabilitate,  consistent  with                                                               
preserving public safety.                                                                                                       
9:46:25 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI  noted the  ACLU  says  that recent  research                                                               
finds  a link  between  voting participation  and re-offense,  in                                                               
which people  who voted after release  were half as likely  to be                                                               
re-arrested as those who didn't. He asked if the DOC agrees.                                                                    
MS. GUTIERREZ  stated she was  unaware of this research,  and her                                                               
consultant was  unaware of it, but  she would like to  review the                                                               
research.  She  finds it  very  interesting  and compelling,  but                                                               
can't yet comment on it.                                                                                                        
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI  responded  that  if  restoration  of  voting                                                               
rights can  reduce recidivism, then  we are talking about  a huge                                                               
savings to state.                                                                                                               
MS. GUTIERREZ  stated that recidivism  can be reduced by  just 10                                                               
percent  it would  be a  huge  savings to  the state  and to  the                                                               
citizens,  because fewer  new victims  would be  created and  our                                                               
communities would be safer and healthier.                                                                                       
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI  asked  Ms.   Gutierrez  to  check  with  her                                                               
consultants and  see if they  agreed with this  research, because                                                               
that would  be a very  compelling reason  to pass SB  7. Reducing                                                               
recidivism and preventing future crimes,  he stated, would have a                                                               
very positive impact  on the state. He then asked  if a person is                                                               
automatically discharged once they  have completed the conditions                                                               
of their probation and parole.                                                                                                  
MS.  GUTIERREZ  replied that  when  a  person has  satisfied  the                                                               
conditions  of  their  probation  or parole,  they  are  given  a                                                               
document that states they are  unconditionally discharged, and at                                                               
that point they can register to vote.                                                                                           
CHAIR  WIELECHOWSKI  asked  if  the DOC  has  any  problems  with                                                               
providing written notification of the unconditional release.                                                                    
MS. GUTIERREZ replied that the DOC is already doing that.                                                                       
9:50:32 AM                                                                                                                    
DR. ALONZO  PATTERSON, Pastor, Shiloh Baptist  Church, Anchorage,                                                               
said he has served with the  parole system for thirteen years and                                                               
that he supports  SB 7 to help people being  released from prison                                                               
feel they are  a part of society. When a  person is released, the                                                               
institution  says they  are rehabilitated,  but fulfilling  their                                                               
obligations  can go  on for  years, in  some cases  because of  a                                                               
technicality.  Dr.  Patterson stated  that  he  is supportive  of                                                               
felons having  the right  to vote  as soon  as they  are released                                                               
from jail.                                                                                                                      
9:55:17 AM                                                                                                                    
CAL WILLIAMS, Vice President, NAACP  of Anchorage, stated that he                                                               
served as a  commissioner on the prison  industry commission, and                                                               
that the  right to vote is  a key factor in  reducing recidivism.                                                               
He further  stated that the  NAACP stands for  rehabilitation and                                                               
reintegration  into  society, and  that  the  NAACP of  Anchorage                                                               
supports SB 7.                                                                                                                  
TROY  BUCKNER,  President,  Anchorage   Urban  League,  said  the                                                               
League's focus is  economic and educational parity  for people of                                                               
color  and  poor people,  and  that  the Anchorage  Urban  League                                                               
supports SB 7.                                                                                                                  
10:00:25 AM                                                                                                                   
CHAIR WIELECHOWSKI  announced that  SB 7 would  be set  aside for                                                               
further consideration.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 7 Sponsor Statement Rev. 1-26-2011.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 Supporting Document - ACLU Model Testimony.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 Supporting Document - NCSL Legisbrief - Felon Voting Rights.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 Supporting Document -The Sentencing Project - US Senate.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 Sectional Summary 27-LS0083A.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 30 Fiscal Note (Law).pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 30 Sponsor Statement.pdf HJUD 2/13/2012 1:00:00 PM
SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 7 Fiscal Note (DOE).pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 30 Sectional Analysis.pdf HJUD 2/13/2012 1:00:00 PM
SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 30 Senator Dyson Notes.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 30 Supporting Document - APOA.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 30 Supporting Document - Office of Victim's Rights.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Return of Seized Property
SB 30
SB 7 Statement Support ACLU 2011 02 02.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 Corrections Dept Processing Felons.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
Felons' Right to Vote or Be Jurors
SB 7
SB 7 NAACP Ltr of Support 2-3-2011.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 7
SB 7 Supporting Document - NCSL State Survey Permanent Disenfranchisment Feb 2011.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 7
SB 7 Supporting Document - NCSL State Survey of Voting Rights Feb 2011.pdf SSTA 2/3/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 7