Legislature(1997 - 1998)
05/06/1998 09:00 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE May 6, 1998 9:00 A.M. TAPE HFC 98 - 158, Side 1 CALL TO ORDER Co-Chair Gene Therriault called the House Finance Committee meeting to order at 9:00 a.m. PRESENT Co-Chair Therriault Representative Kohring Representative Davies Representative Martin Representative Davis Representative Moses Representative Grussendorf Representative Mulder Representative Kelly Co-Chair Hanley and Representative Foster were absent from the meeting. ALSO PRESENT Gail Fenumiai, Election Program Specialist, Division of Election, Office of the Lieutenant Governor; Kathleen Strasbaugh, Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law; Sarah Fisher-Good, Staff, Representative Therriault. SUMMARY HB 257 "An Act relating to voter qualification, disqualification, and registration; to voter registration officials; to election notices; to mail elections; to certain voting procedures; to the transportation of ballots; and to the official election pamphlet and certain immunity from liability regarding claims arising from publication of the official election pamphlet." CSHB 257 (FIN) was REPORTED out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with a fiscal impact note by the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. HOUSE BILL NO. 257 "An Act relating to voter qualification, disqualification, and registration; to voter registration officials; to election notices; to mail elections; to certain voting procedures; to the transportation of ballots; and to the official election pamphlet and certain immunity from liability regarding claims arising from publication of the official election pamphlet." Co-Chair Therriault provided members with work draft #0- GH0095\L, dated 5/4/98(copy on file). Representative Mulder MOVED to ADOPT with work draft #0-GH0095\L, dated 5/4/98. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. SARAH FISHER-GOOD, STAFF, REPRESENTATIVE THERRIAULT observed that the committee substitute combined HB 257 and SB 185. GAIL FENUMIAI, ELECTION PROGRAM SPECIALIST, DIVISION OF ELECTION, OFFICE OF THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR reviewed the proposed committee substitute, work draft #0-GH0095\L, dated 5/4/98. Sections 1-4 ? These sections address voter list maintenance. (They were previously considered and approved by Senate State Affairs, Senate Finance and House State Affairs as SB185.) Since the passage of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) in 1993, the Division has been unable to purge the voter registration list. ? This is the state's second attempt to bring state law into compliance with the federal law. In 1996, legislation was passed but the US Department of Justice declared it violated the NVRA and authorized a lawsuit against the state. So far, the Department of Justice has refrained from actually filing the suit while the legislature is considering this corrective legislation. ? The list maintenance process will work as follows: ? Each year a nonforwardable mailing will be sent to voters who, in the two years preceding, have had mail returned to the Division; have not contacted the Division; and have not voted or appeared to vote. ? A second notice will be sent to those voters whose cards are returned by the US Postal Service as undeliverable or with a new forwarding address. ? Voters have 45 days to respond to the second mailing. If no response is received, the voter will be placed on an inactive list. ? If no there is voter contact during the following four years, the voter will be removed from the registration list. ? When a voter is placed on the inactive list, their name no longer appears on precinct registers or any list prepared by the Division. A voter may become active at any time during that four-year period by making contact with the Division. Sections 5 and 8 ? Provides statutory authority for the Division to conduct elections using optical scanning ballot tabulation equipment. Explicit statutory authority assures that adoption of the optical scanning method does not create any legal difficulties. ? Gives authority to the director to adopt regulations outlining procedures for the tabulation of optically scanned ballots. Section 6 ? Improves the absentee by personal representative process. It provides better accountability by requiring the personal representative to provide identification and sign a register before being issued ballots. ? Streamlining the process by decreasing the number of trips the personal representative is required to make. It would also decrease the number of signatures required. In 1996, there were 513 absentee by personal representative ballots. Of those, 15 percent were rejected for insufficient witnessing and signatures. ? Although the process has been simplified, additional security measures have been added. This important protection will reduce the possibility of voter fraud. Section 7 ? After implementing absentee voting by fax in 1996, the Division quickly realized how valuable a tool it was for voters not receiving ballots in time. However, because the application period ended four days before an election, many could not be served by the process. ? This section extends the application deadline for absentee voting by fax to the day before an election. The current deadline is four days prior to an election. Sections 9-13 ? These sections make only technical changes associated with the official election pamphlet. Co-Chair Therriault noted that funding for the scanners is already contained in the budget. He asked for information regarding state compliance with federal law. KATHLEEN STRASBAUGH, ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEPARTMENT OF LAW explained that state law allowed the purging of voters for nonvoting. Congress was interested in assuring that people were not removed from the rolls solely for nonvoting. The Justice Department feels that any measure that targets people for purging exclusively because they did not vote would be afoul of the National Voter Registration Act. The Justice Department has indicated that the committee substitute would resolve their concerns. Ms. Fenumiai explained that in January the state of Alaska would look at total registration rolls. Persons that have not contacted the Division for two years would be sent a non-forwardable mailing. If the mail is not returned to the Division they will remain on the rolls. If the mailing comes back to the Division as undeliverable or with a forwarding address they are sent a second notice. If they do not respond within 45 days they are put on the inactive list. Once they are on the inactive list they do not appear on precinct registers or voting lists. They will remain on the inactive list for 4 years. The voter is removed from the inactive list at the end of four years if there has been no contact with the Division. An inactive voter can vote a questioned ballot. This would reactive their voter registration. District lists used by candidates will not have inactive voters unless specifically requested. Ms. Fenumiai explained that the fiscal note submitted by the Division would fund list maintenance. The fiscal note would pay for printing two notices and postage on mailings. Representative Mulder observed that ballots by inactive voters would count in all elections if they were registered in the previous two years. Ms. Fenumiai clarified that notices would be sent annually. The initial cost of printing forms for the first mailing would be $263 thousand dollars. She anticipated that it would cost $46 thousand dollars in subsequent years. She estimated that 120,000 names are inactive. Co-Chair Therriault questioned if an inactive list can be created without funding for the notices. Ms. Fenumiai clarified that federal law requires that notices be sent before an inactive list is created. Ms. Fenumiai explained that notices would be sent to all households. Ms. Strasbaugh noted that "official registration list" is defined as a list of all voters qualified to vote. She felt that federal law would look askance of a characterization of voters based on frequency of voting. The legislation will allow reduction of the list over time. Representative Martin MOVED to report CSHB 257 (FIN) out of Committee with the accompanying fiscal note. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. CSHB 257 (FIN) was REPORTED out of Committee with "no recommendation" and with a fiscal impact note by the Department of Commerce and Economic Development. ADJOURNMENT The meeting adjourned at 9:50 a.m. House Finance Committee 5 5/06/98 a.m.