Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205

03/02/2021 03:30 PM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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Heard & Held
Heard & Held
Moved SJR 1 Out of Committee
-- Invited & Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
**Streamed live on AKL.tv**
              SB 83-ELECTIONS; VOTING; BALLOT REQS                                                                          
3:33:59 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER  announced the consideration  of SENATE BILL  NO. 83                                                               
"An Act  relating to  elections; and  providing for  an effective                                                               
He listed the individuals available to answer questions.                                                                        
3:34:35 PM                                                                                                                    
JOSH APPLEBEE,  Chief of Staff, Lieutenant  Governor Kevin Meyer,                                                               
Juneau, Alaska,  stated that SB  83 stems from the  experience of                                                               
the 2020 election  cycle, which, due to COVID-19,  was unlike any                                                               
other.  It offers  four ideas  for the  committee to  consider to                                                               
help "bolster, tighten, and tweak" the election system.                                                                         
First, SB 83  provides the director of the  Division of Elections                                                               
flexibility   to   conduct   additional  hand   counts   if   the                                                               
circumstances of  the election warrant it.  The statute currently                                                               
only  permits a  hand-count  verification on  one randomly  drawn                                                               
precinct within  each district. Further  hand counts  are allowed                                                               
only if the hand count  comes back with significant deviation. He                                                               
said  the  division  believes  that the  ability  to  audit  more                                                               
precincts  to  ensure confidence  in  the  results would  improve                                                               
election integrity.                                                                                                             
Second, SB 83  clarifies that two voter  identifiers are required                                                               
in order to  apply for an absentee ballot, and  that both a voter                                                               
signature  and  identifier are  required  on  an absentee  ballot                                                               
envelop.  He  said  this  is how  the  division  interpreted  and                                                               
applied the  law during the  2020 elections so this  is codifying                                                               
current practice.                                                                                                               
MR.  APPLEBY emphasized  that SB  83 does  nothing to  change the                                                               
requirement  for a  witness signature.  He  highlighted that  the                                                               
Lieutenant  Governor and  the Department  of Law  argued to  keep                                                               
that requirement  in the 2020  election but were  unsuccessful in                                                               
court. He further  highlighted that that the  court decision only                                                               
applied to the 2020 elections and not any subsequent elections.                                                                 
Third, SB 83  allows the director to establish  in regulation the                                                               
amount  of deposit  required for  a  recount. He  noted that  the                                                               
amounts in  the existing  statute are outdated  and do  not cover                                                               
the actual costs.                                                                                                               
Fourth, SB  83 allows, but  does not require, communities  with a                                                               
population of less than 750  to conduct elections by mail instead                                                               
of in  person. In the  last election, some communities  shut down                                                               
their polling stations for legitimate  health and safety reasons,                                                               
but even in non-pandemic times it  can be difficult to find staff                                                               
and a  polling location  in small  communities. This  bill offers                                                               
flexibility for  the division to  work with small  communities to                                                               
find the best  way to ensure that every voter  can exercise their                                                               
right to vote.                                                                                                                  
3:38:54 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SHOWER  advised  that  he requested  a  meeting  with  the                                                               
Lieutenant  Governor's  Office  to  try  to  prevent  overlapping                                                               
efforts between SB 83 and SB 39, which he sponsored.                                                                            
3:39:45 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. APPLEBEE presented the sectional analysis for SB 83.                                                                        
     Section  1.   Provides  the Division  of Elections  the                                                                    
     flexibility to  count more than one  random precinct in                                                                    
     the  ballot review  process  should  the Director  have                                                                    
     concerns about the elections process.                                                                                      
     Section 2.  Clarifies a  space for the voter identifier                                                                    
     be made  on the  voter certificate that  accompanies an                                                                    
     absentee ballot.                                                                                                           
     Section   3.     Clarifies  that   one  of   the  voter                                                                    
     identifiers must be a voter's date of birth.                                                                               
     Section 4.   Clarifies that the  voter certificate must                                                                    
     include the information required in AS 15.20.030.                                                                          
     Section 5.   States  that the absentee  ballot counting                                                                    
     board   shall  examine   the   voter  certificate   and                                                                    
     determine that it has  been properly executed including                                                                    
     a voter's signature and voter identifier.                                                                                  
     Section 6.   Clarifies that an absentee  ballot may not                                                                    
     be counted if the voter  certificate does not contain a                                                                    
     voter's signature or voter identifier.                                                                                     
     Section 7.   Removes the  deposit amount for  a recount                                                                    
     from  statute  and  requires   the  Director  to  adopt                                                                    
     regulations  establishing  the  amount  and  manner  of                                                                    
     payment for a recount.                                                                                                     
     Section  8.   Gives  the  Division  the flexibility  to                                                                    
     conduct  voting   by  mail   for  communities   with  a                                                                    
     population under 750 if necessary.                                                                                         
     Section  9.   Adds the  definition of  voter identifier                                                                    
     into statute.                                                                                                              
     Section 10.  Directs  the Division to adopt regulations                                                                    
     necessary to implement this bill.                                                                                          
     Section 11.  Makes Section 10 effective immediately.                                                                       
3:40:46 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SHOWER  highlighted that  while  the  court decision  only                                                               
applied to  the 2020 elections,  it did set precedent  so nothing                                                               
prevents  a  court   from  changing  an  election   in  a  future                                                               
emergency.   He  emphasized   that,  "The   legislature  is   the                                                               
constitutional authority for setting that law, not the courts."                                                                 
SENATOR REINBOLD  echoed the previous concern  and voiced support                                                               
for sidebars.                                                                                                                   
3:42:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI asked  Cori Mills with the Department  of Law if                                                               
the court case placed conditions other than the pandemic.                                                                       
[Ms. Mills dropped  off line and Senator Kawasaki  posed a second                                                               
3:43:01 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI noted  the perjury implications for  a voter who                                                               
falsifies  information   when  providing  an  identifier   on  an                                                               
election  ballot application  and asked  if perjury  also applies                                                               
for anybody who signs as a witness.                                                                                             
3:43:38 PM                                                                                                                    
CORI MILLS,  Deputy Attorney General, Civil  Division, Department                                                               
of Law, Alaska, Alaska, cautioned  that she might need to correct                                                               
her answers  after consultation with  the criminal  division. She                                                               
said the  applicable criminal laws are  perjury and falsification                                                               
and she believes that it would  be a crime of falsifying a signed                                                               
statement to falsely witness a ballot.                                                                                          
CHAIR SHOWER asked for the penalty for that crime.                                                                              
MS.  MILLS cited  AS  15.56.040. Voter  misconduct  in the  first                                                               
degree.  She offered  her understanding  that falsely  witnessing                                                               
would fall under that statute and it is a class C felony.                                                                       
SENATOR KAWASAKI  referred to the  ballot he applied for  but did                                                               
not use.  He noted  that the only  requirement under  the witness                                                               
affidavit is  to be over  age 18. He  asked if she  could explain                                                               
why it was written that way.                                                                                                    
MS. MILLS  said she would guess  that the language has  been that                                                               
way  for some  time,  but  she would  defer  to  Ms. Fenumiai  to                                                               
explain the reason.                                                                                                             
3:47:56 PM                                                                                                                    
GAIL  FENUMIAI, Director,  Division of  Elections, Office  of the                                                               
Lieutenant   Governor,  Juneau,   Alaska,  confirmed   that  that                                                               
language has  been on the by  mail return envelopes for  at least                                                               
the last two decades.                                                                                                           
CHAIR SHOWER  pointed out  the very  small print  warning outside                                                               
the box  for the witness  signature says, "False  statements made                                                               
by the voter  or by the attesting witness on  the certificate are                                                               
punishable by law."                                                                                                             
SENATOR KAWASAKI asked Ms. Mills  for the basis for the unanimous                                                               
decision in the 2020 elections court case.                                                                                      
MS. MILLS advised that it  was a preliminary injunction motion in                                                               
the  superior court.  The court  looked at  the pandemic  and the                                                               
health and safety  risks of interacting with  another person. The                                                               
Department  of Law  (DOL)  appealed the  decision  to the  Alaska                                                               
Supreme Court and that court  found that the superior court judge                                                               
did  not  abuse  her  discretion   in  granting  the  preliminary                                                               
injunction. She clarified that the  Supreme Court did not go into                                                               
the merits of the case, just  whether the decision was within the                                                               
judge's discretion.                                                                                                             
SENATOR KAWASAKI asked if she believes  that DOL would be able to                                                               
win  the  case in  the  Alaska  Supreme  Court  if it  weren't  a                                                               
pandemic and the argument was more broad-based.                                                                                 
MS. MILLS  replied it was  DOL's legal  position that the  law is                                                               
constitutional both  under the  pandemic and  if there  weren't a                                                               
3:51:50 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER  reported that in  March 2020, the  legislature took                                                               
up the  issue of the  witness signature  and the decision  was to                                                               
keep that requirement intact.                                                                                                   
SENATOR HOLLAND referred  to Section 8 on page 6  and asked about                                                               
the benefit of providing a definition for the term "community."                                                                 
CHAIR SHOWER  noted that this was  an area of overlap  between SB
83  and  SB  39.  The   Alaska  Municipal  League  suggested  the                                                               
population of 750  and SB 39 provides a  more nuanced definition.                                                               
He asked Mr. Applebee to comment.                                                                                               
MR. APPLEBEE  explained that the  term "community" refers  to any                                                               
size town or  village that has a population of  less than 750 and                                                               
that number is the break between small and larger.                                                                              
SENATOR  REINBOLD  asked  about  defining the  type  of  pandemic                                                               
because  she feels  the situation  of the  COVID-19 pandemic  has                                                               
been exploited.                                                                                                                 
3:55:45 PM                                                                                                                    
MS.  MILLS  responded by  adding  precision  to her  response  to                                                               
Senator Kawasaki. She said the concerns were specific to COVID-                                                                 
19  and   the  evidence   before  the   court  was   specific  to                                                               
transmissibility, death rates, and  health information related to                                                               
COVID-19.  That  is  the   information  the  plaintiff's  council                                                               
presented  and  the court  weighed.  The  Department of  Law  put                                                               
forward their own information,  specifically related to COVID-19,                                                               
about the safety options to get a witness signature.                                                                            
SENATOR  REINBOLD asked  about providing  a  clear definition  of                                                               
"pandemic" in  this or another  bill that would be  applicable in                                                               
the future.                                                                                                                     
MS. MILLS  said it is  an interesting concept and  the department                                                               
would be willing to look at any proposal brought forward.                                                                       
CHAIR SHOWER asked  Mr. Appleby what led to the  decision to make                                                               
750 the population cutoff for conducting an election by mail.                                                                   
MR.  APPLEBEE  answered that  the  basis  was conversations  with                                                               
community leaders  and time spent recruiting  election workers in                                                               
rural areas.  The determination  was that 750  is the  size where                                                               
recruiting becomes difficult for an in-person election.                                                                         
3:59:26 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  SHOWER asked  Ms. Mills  if DOL  raised the  issue of  the                                                               
courts' ability  to change  election law at  either the  state or                                                               
federal level.                                                                                                                  
MS. MILLS answered no; this was a state-centered issue.                                                                         
CHAIR SHOWER  asked what  protocols were in  place to  ensure the                                                               
accuracy of the voter rolls.                                                                                                    
MS.  FENUMIAI  advised  that  she  provided  a  document  to  the                                                               
committee that  outlines the list maintenance  processes that the                                                               
division undertakes  to keep the  voter rolls in  accordance with                                                               
state and federal law. She asked if members had the document.                                                                   
CHAIR SHOWER answered yes and asked for a 30,000-foot view.                                                                     
4:01:55 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. FENUMIAI  explained that the division  follows the provisions                                                               
in AS  15.07.130, which meets  the guidelines under  the National                                                               
Voter Registration  Act. The division participates  in a 30-state                                                               
cross matching program, sends notices  to people who appear to be                                                               
registered to  vote in other  states, and receives  notices about                                                               
voter   deaths  from   a  variety   of  sources.   This  includes                                                               
information  from the  non-profit organization  ERIC, secretaries                                                               
of state  offices, state health and  analytics, voters' families,                                                               
obituaries, and voters who request cancellation.                                                                                
4:03:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  KAWASAKI   asked  if   the  division   receives  updated                                                               
information when  a person  applies online  for a  permanent fund                                                               
dividend (PFD)  and they list  an address that is  different than                                                               
is in the voter roll.                                                                                                           
MS. FENUMIAI  replied the division receives  the information from                                                               
the PFD  and their  process is  to notify the  person and  ask if                                                               
they want the information on  the PFD application to update their                                                               
voter registration record.  These voters have a  30-day window to                                                               
opt out of  changing their voter registration record.  If they do                                                               
not opt out,  the division uses the information  they provided on                                                               
their PFD application to update their voter registration.                                                                       
SENATOR KAWASAKI asked if the system  is automated or if there is                                                               
discretion. He  mentioned the  PFD fraud unit  that uses  data to                                                               
determine the truthfulness of residency claims.                                                                                 
4:05:05 PM                                                                                                                    
MS. FENUMIAI answered that the  division takes the information at                                                               
face  value just  as  they do  for those  who  register to  vote,                                                               
certified under penalty of perjury, directly with the division.                                                                 
SENATOR  KAWASAKI  asked how  the  voter  roll is  affected  when                                                               
someone  applies for  a PFD  and claims  to be  in the  state but                                                               
their IP address identifies them as applying from out-of-state.                                                                 
MS.  FENUMIAI asked  for further  clarification  of the  question                                                               
because  a voter  does not  need  to be  in the  state to  remain                                                               
registered to vote.                                                                                                             
4:06:13 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KAWASAKI  asked if the  division has  a way to  prevent a                                                               
person who  lives out of  state from becoming registered  to vote                                                               
if  they apply  for a  PFD online  claiming that  they live  at a                                                               
former Alaska address.                                                                                                          
MS. FENUMIAI answered  no. A voter who registers  through the PFD                                                               
application  and  does  not  respond to  the  opt-out  notice  is                                                               
registered to  vote based  on the  information provided  from the                                                               
permanent fund.                                                                                                                 
CHAIR  SHOWER added  that his  office recently  learned that  the                                                               
data  from the  PFD application  passes directly  through to  the                                                               
Division of Elections.                                                                                                          
SENATOR  REINBOLD recalled  a bill  that allowed  members of  the                                                               
military who had left Alaska to  apply for a PFD if they intended                                                               
to return at  some time. She asked Ms. Fenumiai  if she was aware                                                               
of that legislation.                                                                                                            
MS. FENUMIAI said  she does not know the PFD  rules, but Title 15                                                               
provides that an individual who has  an intent to return does not                                                               
lose their residency for voting purposes.                                                                                       
CHAIR SHOWER  related his  personal experience  that when  he was                                                               
stationed outside Alaska he was  always able to vote absentee but                                                               
he did not receive the dividend.                                                                                                
SENATOR  REINBOLD opined  that  "intent to  return"  ought to  be                                                               
4:10:30 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR SHOWER found no further  questions and stated he would hold                                                               
SB 83 in committee.                                                                                                             

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 84 Dept of Revenue PPT.pdf SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 84
SB 84 Sectional Analysis.pdf SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 84
SB 84 Bill.PDF SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 84
SB 83 Sectional Analysis version A.pdf SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 83
SB 83 Sponsor Statement version A.pdf SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 83
SB 83 A.PDF SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 83
SB 83-1-2-021221-GOV-N.PDF SSTA 3/2/2021 3:30:00 PM
SB 83