Legislature(1997 - 1998)

05/06/1998 09:00 AM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
           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.                                         

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