Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124

03/29/2018 08:00 AM House COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS

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08:04:26 AM Start
08:05:02 AM HB390
09:26:33 AM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
-- Public Testimony --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
    HOUSE COMMUNITY AND REGIONAL AFFAIRS STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                   
                         March 29, 2018                                                                                         
                           8:04 a.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Justin Parish, Co-Chair                                                                                          
Representative Tiffany Zulkosky, Co-Chair                                                                                       
Representative Harriet Drummond                                                                                                 
Representative John Lincoln                                                                                                     
Representative George Rauscher                                                                                                  
Representative Dan Saddler                                                                                                      
Representative David Talerico                                                                                                   
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Representative DeLena Johnson (alternate)                                                                                       
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (alternate)                                                                              
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
HOUSE BILL NO. 390                                                                                                              
"An Act establishing a ranked-choice  primary election system for                                                               
nomination to state executive and  state and national legislative                                                               
offices;  establishing a  ranked-choice  general election  system                                                               
for  election   to  state   and  national   legislative  offices;                                                               
repealing the  special runoff election  for the office  of United                                                               
States  senator or  United States  representative; and  requiring                                                               
certain  written  notices to  appear  in  election pamphlets  and                                                               
polling places."                                                                                                                
     - HEARD & HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: HB 390                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: RANKED-CHOICE PRIMARY ELECTIONS                                                                                    
SPONSOR(s): REPRESENTATIVE(s) PARISH                                                                                            
02/21/18       (H)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
02/21/18       (H)       CRA, STA, FIN                                                                                          
03/22/18       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
03/22/18       (H)       <Bill Hearing Canceled>                                                                                
03/27/18       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
03/27/18       (H)       -- MEETING CANCELED --                                                                                 
03/29/18       (H)       CRA AT 8:00 AM BARNES 124                                                                              
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
PATRICK COURTNAGE, Staff                                                                                                        
Representative Justin Parish                                                                                                    
Alaska State Legislature                                                                                                        
Juneau, Alaska                                                                                                                  
POSITION   STATEMENT:      Presented   HB  390   on   behalf   of                                                             
Representative Parish, prime sponsor.                                                                                           
KAREN BRINSON BELL, Election Administration Consultant                                                                          
Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center                                                                                            
Charleston, South Carolina                                                                                                      
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified in support of HB 390.                                                                          
JEREMY SPEIGHT, Assistant Professor                                                                                             
Department of Political Science                                                                                                 
University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)                                                                                            
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during hearing on HB 390.                                                                      
CHARLES BILES, Professor Emeritus                                                                                               
Humboldt State University                                                                                                       
Arcata, California                                                                                                              
POSITION  STATEMENT:   Provided input  during the  hearing on  HB
DAVID NEES, Education Researcher                                                                                                
Alaska Policy Forum                                                                                                             
Anchorage, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:  Testified during the hearing on HB 390.                                                                  
MARILYN RUSSELL                                                                                                                 
Fairbanks, Alaska                                                                                                               
POSITION STATEMENT:   Testified during  the hearing on HB  390 in                                                             
support of RCV.                                                                                                                 
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
8:04:26 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  TIFFANY   ZULKOSKY  called  the  House   Community  and                                                             
Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee  meeting to  order at  8:04                                                               
a.m.   Representatives  Saddler, Lincoln,  Talerico, Parish,  and                                                               
Zulkosky  were present  at the  call to  order.   Representatives                                                               
Rauscher and Drummond arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                   
             HB 390-RANKED-CHOICE PRIMARY ELECTIONS                                                                         
8:05:02 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  ZULKOSKY  announced that  the  only  order of  business                                                               
would  be HOUSE  BILL NO.  390,  "An Act  establishing a  ranked-                                                               
choice primary election system for  nomination to state executive                                                               
and  state  and  national  legislative  offices;  establishing  a                                                               
ranked-choice general  election system for election  to state and                                                               
national  legislative  offices;   repealing  the  special  runoff                                                               
election  for  the office  of  United  States senator  or  United                                                               
States representative;  and requiring certain written  notices to                                                               
appear in election pamphlets and polling places."                                                                               
8:05:39 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  PARISH,  as  prime  sponsor, introduced  HB  390.    He                                                               
proffered  that when  a group  of  10 friends  gets together  for                                                               
dinner and  votes on  what to  have, and  spaghetti got  the most                                                               
votes, with three people in favor  of it, that would probably not                                                               
end the decision making.   However, in voting, the majority wins,                                                               
even if  that majority is only  30 percent of voters.   He opined                                                               
that   the  system   is  inefficient,   leads  to   a  sense   of                                                               
disenfranchisement, and  has other negative consequences  he said                                                               
would be highlighted  by upcoming testifiers.   He predicted that                                                               
under HB  390 there would  be increased voter  turnout, decreased                                                               
campaigning, and a greater sense of voter enfranchisement.                                                                      
8:07:29 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK  COURTNAGE, Staff,  Representative Justin  Parish, Alaska                                                               
State Legislature,  Presented HB 390 on  behalf of Representative                                                               
Parish,  prime  sponsor.   He  began  a  PowerPoint  presentation                                                               
[hardcopy included in  the committee packet].  As  shown on slide                                                               
2,  Mr.  Courtnage reviewed  that  in  plurality elections,  when                                                               
there  are more  than two  candidates, a  winner can  be declared                                                               
with less than a majority of the vote.                                                                                          
MR.  COURTNAGE  turned to  slides  3-6,  which show  that  ranked                                                               
choice voting is as easy as 1-2-3.   The first step is for voters                                                               
to rank as  many candidates as they want in  order of choice; the                                                               
second step is for all choices  to be counted, and if a candidate                                                               
has a majority, then that  candidate wins; the third step happens                                                               
if there is  no one with a  majority of the votes,  in which case                                                               
the  candidate  with the  fewest  votes  is eliminated  from  the                                                               
ballots.   If the person  eliminated was someone's  first choice,                                                               
then  that voter's  second choice  would be  counted, and  so on.                                                               
The majority in ranked choice voting is 50 percent plus one.                                                                    
8:11:38 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. COURTNAGE  turned to  slide 7, which  shows the  states where                                                               
ranked   choice  voting   (RCV)   is  being   used  today,   most                                                               
importantly, he  said, in Maine, which  will be using RCV  in its                                                               
upcoming  state primary  election.   The  map on  the slide  also                                                               
shows  that RCV  is  used in  municipalities,  such as  Portland,                                                               
Maine,  Minneapolis,   Minnesota,  San  Francisco   and  Oakland,                                                               
California,  and  most  recently  Santa  Fe,  New  Mexico.    Mr.                                                               
Courtnage  noted that  in the  committee packet  was a  survey of                                                               
Santa  Fe's mayoral  election.    He said  RCV  is  also used  in                                                               
various states for party elections.                                                                                             
MR. COURTNAGE turned to slides 8  and 9, which show the following                                                               
benefits  of   RCV:    no   more  vote  splitting   or  "spoiler"                                                               
candidates; no  more "wasted" votes;  increase in  voter turnout;                                                               
voters do  not have to  guess who might  make the runoff  but can                                                               
vote their  conscience; easy  use on  modern voting  equipment or                                                               
"with  workarounds" on  older  equipment;  candidates doing  best                                                               
when  reaching out  positively  instead  of attaching  opponents;                                                               
candidates  earning  back-up  support  to  win,  not  just  first                                                               
choices; less negative campaigning.                                                                                             
8:15:04 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. COURTNAGE  gave a  summary of the  presentation, as  shown on                                                               
slide 10, and  he indicated that RCV could result  in an increase                                                               
in the  percentage of candidates  of minority groups and  "a more                                                               
representative and fair election."                                                                                              
8:16:10 AM                                                                                                                    
MR.  COURTNAGE   brought  attention   to  a   proposed  committee                                                               
substitute  (CS)  for  HB 390,  labeled    30-LS1102\J,  Bullard,                                                               
4/2/18,  and  he noted  that  Version  J  would change  the  word                                                               
"majority" to  "plurality" in Section 3,  on page 2, line  24, to                                                               
clarify the general gubernatorial election  must be won through a                                                               
plurality.  He explained this  is in accordance with Article III,                                                               
Section  3, of  the Constitution  of the  State of  Alaska, which                                                               
states  that  "the candidate  receiving  the  greatest number  of                                                               
votes shall be governor."                                                                                                       
8:18:56 AM                                                                                                                    
KAREN  BRINSON BELL,  Election Administration  Consultant, Ranked                                                               
Choice Voting  Resource Center, imparted  that she has  worked in                                                               
election administration since 2006,  having served with the North                                                               
Carolina  State  Board  of  Elections  as  a  district  elections                                                               
technician and  as the former election  director for Transylvania                                                               
County,  North  Carolina.    Ms.  Brinson  Bell  paraphrased  her                                                               
written testimony [included in the  committee packet], which read                                                               
as follows [original punctuation provided]:                                                                                     
     Dear  Co-Chair  Zulkosky  and   Members  of  the  House                                                                    
     Community and Regional Affairs Committee:                                                                                  
     On behalf of the  Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center,                                                                    
     thank you for the opportunity  to comment on House Bill                                                                    
     Having    worked    together   overseeing    statewide,                                                                    
     municipal,  and  district  ranked choice  voting  (RCV)                                                                    
     elections,  the Ranked  Choice  Voting Resource  Center                                                                    
     Consulting Team  is focused on expanding  the resources                                                                    
     and information available  regarding the administration                                                                    
     of  and education  about this  voting  method. We  have                                                                    
     developed  a repository  of best  practices and  first-                                                                    
     hand      experiences      through     our      website                                                                    
     www.rankedchoicevoting.org      and      our      Model                                                                    
     Implementation  Plan.  We provide  webinars,  podcasts,                                                                    
     and  presentations  at  no   cost  to  assist  election                                                                    
     administrators,  policy  makers,  candidates,  and  the                                                                    
     public  to identify  whether  RCV is  an  option for  a                                                                    
     jurisdiction  and to  assist with  implementation plans                                                                    
     including  processes  for   tabulating  results,  voter                                                                    
     education, and more.                                                                                                       
     We  work  closely  with  usability  experts,  equipment                                                                    
     vendors, local  clerks, audit specialists,  and others.                                                                    
     The  more we  learn, the  clearer it  becomes that  RCV                                                                    
     elections   have   and   will  work   efficiently   and                                                                    
     effectively  in our  nation's elections,  including the                                                                    
     elections  for Alaska  as outlined  in House  Bill 390.                                                                    
     RCV has  emerged as a  solution for  promoting majority                                                                    
     support, broader  representation through  voter choice,                                                                    
     inclusive  leadership, and  civility. Our  role is  not                                                                    
     advocacy focused;  rather, we aim to  provide resources                                                                    
     that  allow jurisdictions  to  overcome the  perception                                                                    
     that implementing and conducting RCV is too difficult.                                                                     
     Ranked  choice  voting has  been  a  part of  the  U.S.                                                                    
     elections process for more than  100 years. Invented in                                                                    
     Europe in  the 1850s  as a  proportional representation                                                                    
     system,  it was  adapted  to  single-winner or  instant                                                                    
     runoff  form  in the  1870s  by  MIT professor  William                                                                    
     Ware. Shortly thereafter,  Australia adopted the system                                                                    
     and continues  to use RCV  today, along  with countries                                                                    
     such  as   Scotland,  Ireland,  and  Malta.   In  1915,                                                                    
     Ashtabula,  Ohio,   became  the  first  U.S.   city  to                                                                    
     implement RCV, and  by the 1940s, RCV was  in two dozen                                                                    
     cities  across  six states.  However,  by  1962, 23  of                                                                    
     these 24  cities had repealed  RCV for  reasons largely                                                                    
     related to  party bosses realizing it  was difficult to                                                                    
     control   council  members   once  elected   and  newly                                                                    
     introduced  lever voting  machines could  not be  used.                                                                    
     Yet Cambridge, Massachusetts, has  continued to use RCV                                                                    
     for  more than  70 years  for city  council and  school                                                                    
     board   elections,  and   10  additional   U.S.  cities                                                                    
     currently use RCV  as well. There are  also five states                                                                    
     and  the city  of Springfield,  Illinois, that  use RCV                                                                    
     for  military  and overseas  voting.  And  in June  the                                                                    
     voting method  will be used  statewide in  Maine, while                                                                    
     future  use has  been approved  for Benton  County, OR,                                                                    
     and in seven other cities across the country.                                                                              
     Having administered  ranked choice voting  elections in                                                                    
     North   Carolina,   I   can   also   share   first-hand                                                                    
     experience.  When  the  state  legislature  established                                                                    
     opportunities  for  municipalities   to  pilot  RCV,  I                                                                    
     helped  the city  of Hendersonville  in  2007 and  2009                                                                    
     with  this voting  method. Analysis  by North  Carolina                                                                    
     State  University  of  exit survey  results  after  the                                                                    
     first RCV  election concluded  RCV worked  as intended,                                                                    
     and more  than 85%  of those voters  found RCV  easy to                                                                    
     understand.  In 2010,  I  also  helped administer  both                                                                    
     statewide   and   district   level   judicial   vacancy                                                                    
     elections  with  RCV.  This  successful  implementation                                                                    
     occurred in a 3-month  window, utilized existing voting                                                                    
     equipment, was  part of a ballot  that included non-RCV                                                                    
     contests,  and  worked  within   the  confines  of  the                                                                    
     existing  election budget.  Only $200  in actual  funds                                                                    
     was spent on  marketing or voter education    we worked                                                                    
     closely   with  the   media,   issued  public   service                                                                    
     announcements,  and added  supplemental information  to                                                                    
     the  statewide  judicial  voter  guide.  Last  but  not                                                                    
     least, our  most effective voter education  tool proved                                                                    
     to  be written  and  verbal instruction  to the  voters                                                                    
     when  they presented  themselves at  the polling  place                                                                    
     and in absentee-by-mail materials.                                                                                         
     In my current capacity, the  consulting team and I have                                                                    
     analyzed   the   RCV-capability  of   existing   voting                                                                    
     equipment and are currently in  the testing phase for a                                                                    
     Universal RCV  Tabulator, which  is available  as free,                                                                    
     open  source software  to  any  jurisdiction or  voting                                                                    
     system  vendor. While  Alaska's current  voting system,                                                                    
     AccuVote TSX  and AccuVote OS,  does not  have built-in                                                                    
     RCV  capability, data  can be  exported for  tabulation                                                                    
     using  the Universal  RCV  Tabulator.  If Alaska  moves                                                                    
     forward with  a new  voting system, including  all mail                                                                    
     balloting,  the latest  voting  systems  from the  four                                                                    
     largest  vendors  in  the United  States  are  all  RCV                                                                    
     capable. However, none of these  vendors have a product                                                                    
     capable  of optical  character recognition  as proposed                                                                    
     in HB  390, so we  would encourage an amendment  to the                                                                    
     bill to  allow for methods currently  within the voting                                                                    
     systems, such as column or  grid ballot designs. We can                                                                    
     provide   further   assessment  after   more   in-depth                                                                    
     discussion  about  your   election  processes  and  any                                                                    
     decisions  regarding  ranked  choice voting,  all  mail                                                                    
     balloting, and change in voting systems.                                                                                   
     Upon  passage of  this legislation,  the Ranked  Choice                                                                    
     Voting  Resource  Center  team  and I  stand  ready  to                                                                    
     provide assistance  and resources for  voter education,                                                                    
     implementation practices, and  tabulation procedures at                                                                    
     no charge to Alaska's Division of Elections.                                                                               
     Thank you  for the opportunity to  provide testimony in                                                                    
     support of HB 390.                                                                                                         
8:26:17 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER asked Ms.  Brinson Bell what would happen                                                               
if a voter ranked only "one candidate each time."                                                                               
MS.  BRINSON BELL  answered that  if a  voter preferred  only one                                                               
candidate, then  he/she would mark  the ballot accordingly.   She                                                               
said  marking  additional  preferences is  encouraged  and  often                                                               
voters  seem   to  have  those   additional  preferences.     She                                                               
explained, "Because  that allows us  to continue with  the ballot                                                               
counting process."   She stated, "If you think of  it in terms of                                                               
if  it were  a run-off  situation,  there are  often voters  that                                                               
would make their  first selection when they go in  on the primary                                                               
day, or the election day, but  then they might not participate in                                                               
a run-off,  because they  don't prefer  either of  the candidates                                                               
that made  it into  the run-off  round.   So, they  wouldn't lose                                                               
their option  to only vote  for one ... candidate,  but certainly                                                               
this allows for it."                                                                                                            
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER  offered his  understanding that  "if you                                                               
only  choose  one candidate  on  your  first, second,  and  third                                                               
choice, there's  ... a chance that  you won't be involved  in the                                                               
second or third go-around if there was one needed."                                                                             
MS.  BRINSON  BELL  confirmed  that  is  correct.    She  further                                                               
confirmed  that the  additional rounds  take place  only when  no                                                               
candidate receives the majority in the initial round.                                                                           
8:28:35 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  BRINSON   BELL,  in  response  to   Representative  Saddler,                                                               
imparted that the Ranked Choice  Voting Resource Center comprises                                                               
four individuals  who work remotely  as a  nonpartisan consulting                                                               
team.  She offered further details.                                                                                             
8:32:54 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  DRUMMOND  asked if  it  is  true that  Maine  has                                                               
publicly financed elections.                                                                                                    
MS. BRINSON BELL said she does not know but could find out.                                                                     
8:33:30 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LINCOLN  offered his understanding that  Maine had                                                               
voted against [ranked choice voting]l for its next election.                                                                    
MS. BRINSON  BELL responded that  a constitutional  amendment had                                                               
been  put forth  by  referendum of  the people  of  Maine for  an                                                               
opinion  from the  Maine Supreme  Court.   The  opinion was  that                                                               
there were  certain offices that  could not be elected  by ranked                                                               
choice voting.  She explained that  is why Maine is going forward                                                               
with ranked choice  voting for its primary election  but will not                                                               
be  doing so  for  the  General Election.    She  noted that  the                                                               
Legislature  of  Maine  passed  a  bill  that  would  change  the                                                               
process, but there was a people's  veto; that veto will be on the                                                               
ballot in  June.  In response  to a follow-up question,  she said                                                               
ranked choice  voting has  not been used  statewide in  Maine; it                                                               
has only been  used in the City of Portland,  which she estimated                                                               
is  the largest  city in  Maine.   As a  point of  reference, she                                                               
related  that  when North  Carolina  did  its statewide  judicial                                                               
contest  as  part   of  its  General  Election   ballot,  it  had                                                               
approximately 4.3  million voters.  North  Carolina had conducted                                                               
two pilot  elections in  2007 in  Kerry and  Hendersonville, with                                                               
populations  of approximately  100,000 and  13,000, respectively.                                                               
In 2009,  she said, the  City of Henderson had  enough candidates                                                               
to file  to use  RCV again as  part of a  pilot.   She explained,                                                               
"So,  that was  the only  familiarity that  was in  the state  of                                                               
North Carolina prior  to having a statewide  ranked choice voting                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  LINCOLN  asked Ms.  Brinson  Bell  if she  thinks                                                               
there is any  benefit for a state contemplating  statewide RCV to                                                               
first try it in municipal elections.                                                                                            
MS. BRINSON  BELL predicted  that Alaska  would not  have trouble                                                               
with  the  RCV  system,  because  it  is  an  intuitive  process;                                                               
however, a  municipal option  could be  one approach  to exercise                                                               
caution.   She  said the  State of  Hawai'i has  considered doing                                                               
congressional  vacancy  elections [with  the  RCV  system].   She                                                               
noted that Santa  Fe, New Mexico, gave itself  a two-month period                                                               
in which  to creates its  rules and move  forward.  She  said RCV                                                               
can  be done  in a  timely manner;  it is  effective; and  voters                                                               
understand it.                                                                                                                  
8:39:09 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ZULKOSKY  asked Ms. Brinson  Bell how RCV would  work in                                                               
communities with  populations as small  as 500, in which  many of                                                               
the population spoke English as a second language.                                                                              
MS. BRINSON BELL  answered that within North  Carolina, where RCV                                                               
has been used,  there are counties with fewer  than 3,000 voters.                                                               
Regarding language, she  said Santa Fe, New  Mexico, provided its                                                               
RCV ballot  in English  and Spanish.   She named  Minneapolis and                                                               
San Francisco  as two  other cities  in which  multiple languages                                                               
are spoken.   She relayed that Alameda County puts  out video and                                                               
pamphlets in multiple languages to explain the RCV process.                                                                     
8:41:03 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH  asked for  confirmation that  in one  case, only                                                               
$200 was spent on voter education.                                                                                              
MS. BRINSON BELL answered that is  correct.  She referred back to                                                               
the judicial  vacancy she spoke of  in her opening remarks.   She                                                               
said North  Carolina did not  know it  would have RCV  until that                                                               
vacancy occurred  in August;  therefore, the  state did  not have                                                               
the budget  set aside  for it.   She  indicated that  [the Ranked                                                               
Choice  Voting Resource  Center] worked  with the  North Carolina                                                               
Broadcasting Association  to broadcast RCV information  in public                                                               
broadcasting service  format.  She  imparted that $200  was spent                                                               
on a page  in the state's existing judicial guide,  which is sent                                                               
to every  household in the state.   Other methods of  putting out                                                               
the  message included  public  presentations,  inserts in  county                                                               
water  bills, and  presentations  to groups  such  as the  Rotary                                                               
Club.   She remarked, "In  the end, the  very best thing  that we                                                               
had  was just  clear instructions  in  a small  handout that  was                                                               
given  to  each voter  when  they  came  to  vote or  with  their                                                               
absentee  by  mail  materials."    In  response  to  a  follow-up                                                               
question, she  said there was  no exit-poll conducted,  but there                                                               
was a  positive response.   She said  the election resulted  in a                                                               
run-off and  a recount, and  there was full transparency  so that                                                               
the public was aware of the process.                                                                                            
8:44:16 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER  asked whether  [the Ranked  Choice Voting                                                               
Resource Center] reached out to Alaska or vice versa.                                                                           
MS. BRINSON  BELL said Fair  Vote made the introduction,  and she                                                               
held conversations with [Mr. Courtnage].                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked the bill sponsor the same question.                                                                
CO-CHAIR PARISH  explained the  genesis of the  bill was  when he                                                               
called  Legislative  Legal  and  Research Services  and  said  he                                                               
wanted  an RCV  bill.    He deferred  to  his  staff for  further                                                               
8:46:15 AM                                                                                                                    
MR. COURTNAGE said  the Ranked Choice Voting  Resource Center did                                                               
not  initiate  contact  with   Representative  Parish;  the  bill                                                               
sponsor was  convinced "through general  resources" that  RCV was                                                               
"a good  way to go,"  and he requested a  bill be drafted.   Fair                                                               
Vote is  an advocacy  group for  RCV and  sent general  e-mail to                                                               
Representative Parish  once the  bill was  submitted.   Fair Vote                                                               
offered  to  answer  questions at  that  time,  sent  information                                                               
regarding what  had been  done [in  other states]  regarding RCV,                                                               
and put the  bill sponsor in touch with the  Ranked Choice Voting                                                               
Resource Center and Ms. Brinson Bell.                                                                                           
8:47:37 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER asked  if it is the goal  or an additional                                                               
benefit of RCV to increase diversity.                                                                                           
MS.  BRINSON BELL  said that  is outside  her area  of expertise;                                                               
however, she surmised it is more likely an added benefit.                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  asked  for clarification  regarding  the                                                               
term "wasted vote."                                                                                                             
MS.  BRINSON  BELL  answered,  "That   term  could  also  be  'an                                                               
exhausted ballot,'  and that's one  that ...  - by the  fact that                                                               
they only  ranked one candidate,  no candidate, or they  ranked a                                                               
candidate ...  that ... [was]  eliminated and didn't  continue in                                                               
the  rounds  of  voting  -  ... that  ballot  can  no  longer  be                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER opined  that  a vote  for candidate  that                                                               
does not win is not a "wasted vote."   He asked if, under RCV, it                                                               
is possible  that a  candidate could  win who  was not  the first                                                               
choice of a majority of voters.                                                                                                 
MS. BRINSON  BELL said she agreed  that no vote is  a wasted one,                                                               
because any ballot submitted is voting,  which is the goal of the                                                               
Ranked  Choice   Voting  Resource  Center.     To  Representative                                                               
Saddler's question, she explained as follows:                                                                                   
     If  you think  about  a situation  where  you've got  a                                                                    
     large  number of  candidates -  say, five  candidates -                                                                    
     that  are running  ...  either  in a  primary  or in  a                                                                    
     General  Election, in  whatever  capacity,  if ...  the                                                                    
     votes are  tallied and no  candidate has  received more                                                                    
     than, say, 25, 30, 35  percent of the vote, then that's                                                                    
     not a  majority of  voters expressing  - that's  just a                                                                    
     portion of  the voters.   And so, by going  through the                                                                    
     rounds  of  counting  and  taking  ...  the  last-place                                                                    
     finisher and  the votes  that are  cast for  that last-                                                                    
     place  finisher, and  looking at  those voters'  second                                                                    
     choice  and ...  counting those  second choices  ... to                                                                    
     the remaining  candidates, now you begin  to understand                                                                    
     what  the consensus  is and  that the  majority of  the                                                                    
     voters  are  [emphasis  on   "are"]  behind  a  certain                                                                    
     candidate.    And that's  ...  the  entire intent,  and                                                                    
     that's  why ...  I reference  inclusive leadership  and                                                                    
     broader  support.   When it's  all said  and done,  the                                                                    
     votes now have  been tallied, and now we  know that one                                                                    
        person had a majority of the support of all the                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  expressed  concern  that  RCV  seems  to                                                               
change the dynamic of the voting process.                                                                                       
8:52:49 AM                                                                                                                    
JEREMY  SPEIGHT,  Assistant  Professor, Department  of  Political                                                               
Science, University of Alaska Fairbanks  (UAF), stated that he is                                                               
Canadian and was contacted by Mr.  Courtnage to comment on RCV in                                                               
Alaska.  He said he sees  debate about electoral system change as                                                               
part of a broader debate about  what is important in society.  He                                                               
said although there  are a number of problems  with the plurality                                                               
systems  in much  of Western  Democracy, those  systems generally                                                               
are  supported  for a  number  of  reasons.   He  said  plurality                                                               
systems tend  to produce majorities  in legislatures, which  is a                                                               
big  reason why  advocates support  them.   He  explained that  a                                                               
majority in  a legislature might increase  accountability between                                                               
those  elected,  winning  parties,  and citizens.    He  said  in                                                               
plurality   systems,  in   contrast  to   coalition  governments,                                                               
citizens  are more  aware  about who  is  responsible for  making                                                               
policy decisions.   Further, he  noted that there is  an argument                                                               
that majorities result in more effective government.                                                                            
MR.  SPEIGHT  said  RCV  is   a  modified  form  of  proportional                                                               
representation systems, in  which a broader segment  of society -                                                               
minority  groups  - are  represented  in  legislatures, and  this                                                               
feature  is   an  important  value   to  those   supporting  RCV.                                                               
Conversely,   he  stated   that  there   may  be   problems  with                                                               
accountability and  effectiveness, "where you have  coalitions in                                                               
government, the  ability to make  choices becomes impeded  by the                                                               
fact that  smaller parties and  parliaments can function  as veto                                                               
players, ... can block policy  change."  Mr. Speight said debates                                                               
about  electoral  change  or  broader  institutional  change  are                                                               
couched in  debates about what  values are important  in society,                                                               
typically     accountability     and     effectiveness     versus                                                               
MR.  SPEIGHT  advised  that  RCV:    ensures  majorities  at  the                                                               
constituency  level;   empowers  third-parties   and  third-party                                                               
supporters; reduces  wasted votes,  which encourages  citizens to                                                               
vote their consciences  instead of supporting a  party they might                                                               
otherwise   not  vote   for;   incentivizes  moderate   political                                                               
discourse, wherein  party candidates  have to be  concerned about                                                               
supporters of other parties that  may vote for them in subsequent                                                               
rounds of RCV.                                                                                                                  
MR. SPEIGHT  suggested the  committee may  want to  consider that                                                               
although  there may  not be  a lot  of academic  research on  the                                                               
outcomes  of RCV  and effects  could  be mixed  depending on  the                                                               
context,  the contextual  factors in  Alaska that  might have  an                                                               
impact on this type of change  are:  the relationship between the                                                               
legislature  and  executive  branch; divisions  in  society;  and                                                               
lobbying or special interest rules.                                                                                             
9:00:59 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE RAUSCHER  asked about  Mr. Speight's  comment that                                                               
there is not a whole lot of academic research on RCV.                                                                           
MR. SPEIGHT  confirmed there is some,  and a lot of  it is mixed.                                                               
In response to a follow-up question,  he said although he had not                                                               
been  specific  in  his  testimony, he  indicated  that  RCV  can                                                               
encourage voter turnout.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  RAUSCHER remarked  on the  low voter  turnout for                                                               
the primary and General Election in  Alaska in 2014.  He remarked                                                               
that if [only]  39 percent of the population is  willing to vote,                                                               
then "you don't really have a  majority anyway."  He said most of                                                               
the people  he talks to express  that their votes are  not really                                                               
going to  matter, because of Alaska's  time zone.  He  said he is                                                               
not sure  a second  or third  layer in voting  is going  to bring                                                               
more people to the polling place,  and he asked if there has been                                                               
a study done that shows that [RCV] has increased voter turnout.                                                                 
MR. SPEIGHT  responded that although  he does not  have empirical                                                               
evidence, one argument  is that in a  Presidential election where                                                               
voters may  be disenfranchised from  the two main parties  in the                                                               
election, RCV may  be an incentive for them to  vote for a third-                                                               
party candidate.                                                                                                                
9:05:20 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER observed  that  RCV seems  to  be a  step                                                               
toward broadening the choice beyond two  parties.  He asked if it                                                               
would be possible to open the  ballot to access all candidates to                                                               
all voters and, thus, have all the benefits of RCV.                                                                             
MR. SPEIGHT  answered that  he does  not think  so.   He surmised                                                               
that under  Representative Saddler's scenario, it  would still be                                                               
a winner-take-all  plurality system, which  still disincentivizes                                                               
people  to  vote   for  any  candidate  they   want,  because  he                                                               
questioned why someone would write in a fringe candidate if                                                                     
he/she thought that candidate had no chance of winning.                                                                         
REPRESENTATIVE SADDLER said it seems like RCV would advantage                                                                   
fringe candidates.                                                                                                              
MR. SPEIGHT advised that there should be debate about "whether                                                                  
this is a positive or negative thing."                                                                                          
9:08:38 AM                                                                                                                    
CHARLES  BILES, Professor  Emeritus, Mathematics,  Humboldt State                                                               
University, paraphrased  from his  written testimony,  which read                                                               
as follows  [original punctuation provided, with  some formatting                                                               
     Please permit me  to extend a special thank  you to co-                                                                    
     chairs  Justin Parish  and  Tiffany  Zulkosky, and  the                                                                    
     entire  House  Committee   on  Community  and  Regional                                                                    
     Affairs for  the State of  Alaska, for  this invitation                                                                    
     to  give  input  regarding HB  390,  the  Ranked-Choice                                                                    
     Voting bill.                                                                                                               
     My  expertise  is that  of  an  academic whose  primary                                                                    
     research   concerns   the  History   of   Congressional                                                                    
     Apportionment.  Associated  topics include  districting                                                                    
     and voting.  All are essential  components in  a larger                                                                    
     picture framed by the  question, what is Representation                                                                    
     in our  American democracy? History,  from the  time of                                                                    
     the Framers  of our  Constitution, has  evolved answers                                                                    
     on the  premise that  the source of  governmental power                                                                    
     must come from the people.                                                                                                 
     Fundamental  to  American  democracy is  the  right  to                                                                    
     vote. The  ballot is  the people's  main voice  box for                                                                    
     representation. The structure  of the ballot determines                                                                    
     how much input an individual voter has in an election.                                                                     
     The  current system  of structuring  the  ballot is  to                                                                    
     list the options (or  candidates) with the instruction,                                                                    
     Vote  for One.  If  there are  only  two options,  then                                                                    
     there is  no problem.  The winner is  simply determined                                                                    
     by majority vote.                                                                                                          
     However, a problem  exits when there are  three or more                                                                    
     options. In  this event, the  Vote for  One instruction                                                                    
     is  the  most   limiting  among  ballot  possibilities,                                                                    
     allowing  the smallest  voice for  a  voter. The  voter                                                                    
     gets  to say  something about  one candidate,  and then                                                                    
     the input  is over. As  a result, a  substantial number                                                                    
     vote strategically rather than  honestly out of concern                                                                    
     for "throwing away  their vote." Vote for  One does not                                                                    
     allow many  voters to support their  candidate of first                                                                    
     choice  without the  fear that  they  will elect  their                                                                    
     least-liked candidate.                                                                                                     
     The worst-case  scenario of  Vote for  One is  that the                                                                    
     least desirable candidate may  win the election because                                                                    
     the  winner is  simply the  plurality winner.  If there                                                                    
     are  three candidates,  then two  well-liked candidates                                                                    
     may  split  the popular  vote  33%  to 31%,  leaving  a                                                                    
     widely-disliked candidate  the winner  with 36%  of the                                                                    
     The confusion  and agony of  strategy vs.  honesty when                                                                    
     there are three or more  ballot options can be overcome                                                                    
     by  replacing  Vote  for One  by  Ranked-Choice  Voting                                                                    
     The ballot would  still list the same  options, but the                                                                    
     instruction to the voter is  to rank the options rather                                                                    
     than  merely choose  one. Thus,  opportunity for  voter                                                                    
     input   is  extended   to  each   ballot  option,   not                                                                    
     restricted to just one option.                                                                                             
     Of course,  if a  voter simply wants  to just  vote for                                                                    
     one, then  they only need  to mark their  first choice;                                                                    
     hence,  the Vote  for One  structure still  remains for                                                                    
     voters who  want that structure.  With RCV,  voters who                                                                    
     want to  make additional input may  continue by ranking                                                                    
     their 2nd, 3rd, etc.,  choices. This supports the voter                                                                    
     who  wants   to  be  a   greater  participant   in  our                                                                    
     democratic republic.                                                                                                       
     There are clear advantages to ranked-choice voting.                                                                        
     1. Voters get to provide  more input and thus have more                                                                    
     say-so  in the  election. Voter  apathy induced  by the                                                                    
     belief that their vote doesn't  really count or doesn't                                                                    
     matter  is   diminished.  When  no  candidate   wins  a                                                                    
     majority of  the vote in  the first round  of counting,                                                                    
     then  those additional  ranks  make  a difference!  The                                                                    
     final  winner  is a  majority,  not  just a  plurality,                                                                    
     2. Voters  get the  opportunity to vote  for candidates                                                                    
     they support,  not just  vote for someone  as a  way to                                                                    
     vote against another they oppose most.                                                                                     
     3.  Voters  can  vote  honestly without  the  guilt  of                                                                    
     throwing their vote away or  playing a spoiler role and                                                                    
     enabling their least-liked candidate to win.                                                                               
     4. Voters  get to  decide how much  input they  want to                                                                    
     have  given the  ballot  options by  choosing how  many                                                                    
     candidates to rank, from one to all.                                                                                       
     5. Ranked-choice voting  decreases the probability that                                                                    
     the least-desired candidate wins the election.                                                                             
     I applaud  Alaska for  taking the  rights and  input of                                                                    
     voters seriously and  considering Ranked-Choice Voting.                                                                    
     In the early  phase of the development  of this nation,                                                                    
     voting rights  were usually limited to  white males, at                                                                    
     least   21  years   old,   who   were  propertied   and                                                                    
     Protestant. The  evolution of voting rights  in America                                                                    
     now  provides equal  voting  opportunity  to all  adult                                                                    
     citizens in good  standing. It is time  that we further                                                                    
     include the  structure of the  ballot in  voting rights                                                                    
     and upgrade that structure to Ranked-Choice Voting.                                                                        
     Thank you for your considerations.                                                                                         
[Due to technical difficulties, Mr. Biles' testimony was cut                                                                    
short, but it is provided above in its entirety from his written                                                                
testimony submitted to the committee.]                                                                                          
9:14:48 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ZULKOSKY opened public testimony on HB 390.                                                                            
9:15:19 AM                                                                                                                    
The committee took a brief at-ease 9:15 a.m.                                                                                    
9:16:01 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  NEES, Education  Researcher,  Alaska  Policy Forum,  noted                                                               
that he  had given written  testimony to  Representative Saddler.                                                               
He stated  that Minnesota has  RCV in some  of its cities  and is                                                               
looking to  ban it statewide.   He  said, "In the  Cambridge City                                                               
elections, it  does indeed have  an effect.   The effect  is that                                                               
populations  of about  10  percent have  more  chance of  getting                                                               
candidates  put on  the city  council; there's  a very  excellent                                                               
article about  that."  He indicated  that in 1947, the  people of                                                               
Alaska  wanted an  open ballot.   He  added, "That's  been struck                                                               
down  a couple  times  by  courts.   So,  whatever  you do,  it's                                                               
probably going to go that way.   A better option, probably, is to                                                               
make  it  available  to municipalities  to  adopt,  like  plastic                                                               
MR. NEES  mentioned that  the Maine  Initiative was  a democratic                                                               
experiment.   He indicated that part  of [the purpose of  RCV] is                                                               
to   change  the   way  Presidential   elections  are   done,  to                                                               
[eliminate] popular  voting.  He said  one effect of RCV  is that                                                               
it discourages  voters from  voting because  it is  more complex.                                                               
Mr. Nees  mentioned the Olympics  using a system other  than RCV.                                                               
He  said one  thing  that  RCV does  is  produce happier  voters,                                                               
because "they  get to  vote on  everybody," and  occasionally the                                                               
candidates that get elected are  the fringe candidates that would                                                               
not get elected under the current popular vote process.                                                                         
9:18:51 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  SADDLER  acknowledged  he  had  received  written                                                               
testimony from  Mr. Nees.   He  asked whether  RCV makes  it more                                                               
difficult  for people  to publicly  endorse a  candidate or  give                                                               
money to  a candidate's campaign.   He questioned the  same about                                                               
the popular vote.                                                                                                               
[Due to  technical difficulties,  Mr. Nees  was not  available to                                                               
9:19:56 AM                                                                                                                    
MARILYN RUSSELL opined that RCV is  a way to make sure the person                                                               
elected is  the most popular,  because "if the person  elected is                                                               
not your  first choice, she  or he  could be your  second choice,                                                               
and  chances are  you won't  hate the  winner."   She said  [that                                                               
under the RCV  system], all candidates have a  vested interest in                                                               
all voters,  because if  they are not  the voter's  first choice,                                                               
they may  be his/her second  choice.  Further, voters  don't have                                                               
to  vote against  their  conscience.   Ms.  Russell talked  about                                                               
society getting  to see actual  choices, not just who  the winner                                                               
is.  She  indicated that perhaps RCV would be  used for primaries                                                               
and then  be expanded  to [General Elections].   She  said people                                                               
may  be  disgruntled  initially   because  of  the  multitude  of                                                               
choices; however,  her research has  shown her that "after  a few                                                               
years,  people do  sit  up  and pay  more  attention," and  voter                                                               
turnout does increase.   She remarked that under  RCV, people are                                                               
not forced  to [rank]  candidates but instead  can vote  for just                                                               
one.   She  said RCV  would make  candidates work  harder not  to                                                               
alienate  people through  negative  campaigning.   She  expressed                                                               
support for RCV.                                                                                                                
9:24:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR PARISH  offered his  impression that  presently politics                                                               
in  the U.S.  is weighted  toward  parties and  "other groups  of                                                               
wealth and influence."   He asked whether Ms.  Russell agreed and                                                               
if she thought HB 390 would do anything "to redress that."                                                                      
MS.  RUSSELL  answered,  "Yes,  it does."    She  continued,  "It                                                               
certainly  will put  in  different levels  of  economics and  ...                                                               
people of all different ethnicities  and cultures and who has how                                                               
much money,  and all,  and it  would definitely  address leveling                                                               
the playing  field.   I like that  idea, too."   She said  she is                                                               
alarmed by gerrymandering, so, "this is a wonderful idea."                                                                      
9:26:10 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR ZULKOSKY announced that HB 390 was held over.                                                                          
9:26:33 AM                                                                                                                    
There being no  further business before the  committee, the House                                                               
Community  and Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee meeting  was                                                               
adjourned at 9:26 a.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB 390 Fiscal Note OOG-DOE 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB 390 Proposed Blank CS ver D - 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB 390 Sectional Analysis 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB 390 Sponsor Statement 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB 390 ver A 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB390 Supporting Document - Grace Ramsey - Fairvote - 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB390 Supporting Document - Charles Biles 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390
HB390 Supporting Document - Karen Brinson Bell - RCV Resource Center 3.29.18.pdf HCRA 3/29/2018 8:00:00 AM
HB 390