Legislature(1995 - 1996)

03/13/1996 01:14 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HB 364 - UNLAWFUL INTERFERENCE WITH VOTING                                  
                                                                               
 Number 0015                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN BRIAN PORTER announced that the sponsor, Representative              
 Con Bunde, would read the sponsor statement.                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE read the sponsor statement for HB 364, as                
 follows:  "As United States citizens, we have the right to vote no            
 matter who we are or where we live.  In Alaska our election process           
 covers such a vast area that many people must travel great                    
 distances to vote.  Despite some inconveniences we have a civic               
 duty to vote for or against the candidates, propositions and                  
 questions on our state ballot and nobody has the right to interfere           
 with the voting process.                                                      
                                                                               
 "The impetus for HB 364 is Dansereau v. Ulmer, which deals in part          
 with unlawful interference with voting in the first degree.  This             
 case occurred after the 1994 Gubernatorial election and has yet to            
 be completely resolved.  (The complete case is available in the               
 committee packet.)                                                            
                                                                               
 "The purpose of HB 364 is to align our state election law regarding           
 unlawful interference with voting in the first degree with the                
 federal election law.  Alaska statute defines the crime of unlawful           
 interference with voting in the first degree by requiring proof               
 that a person was paid to vote for or against a particular                    
 candidate, proposition, or question.  Whereas, federal election         
 only requires proof that a person first was offered a prohibited              
 incentive and then voted.                                                     
                                                                               
 "HB 364 amends AS 15.56.030 (a) by removing the requirement to                
 prove that an incentive to vote must be for a particular candidate,         
 proposition, or question.  This proposed legislation only requires        
 proof that a person first was offered a prohibited incentive and              
 then voted.  This change strengthens the prohibition against the              
 use of some incentives for voting.                                            
                                                                               
 "This proposed legislation is an important change to our election             
 statutes.  It clarifies that voters in Alaska cannot be paid for              
 their vote.  I urge the support of all legislators."                          
                                                                               
 Representative Bunde then invited questions from the committee.               
                                                                               
 Number 0369                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that Wevley Shea would testify via                  
 telephone, from his office in Anchorage.                                      
                                                                               
 WEVLEY WILLIAM SHEA, Attorney at Law, stated he wished to testify             
 because of the gross inequities which occurred in the 1994                    
 gubernatorial election.  He explained that the suit which prompted            
 the legislation was brought by ten voters.  The lawsuit itself did            
 not allege wrongdoing by any of the candidates, but rather by third           
 parties.  Mr. Shea read from the court's decision in the Dansereau           
 v. Ulmer lawsuit, as follows:  "The right to vote encompasses the            
 right to express one's opinion, and is the way to declare one's               
 full membership in the political community.  Thus, it is                      
 fundamental to our concept of democratic government.  Moreover, a             
 true democracy must seek to make each citizen's vote as meaningful            
 as every other vote, to ensure the equality of all people under the           
 law."  Mr. Shea further explained that the decision states it is              
 the legislature's responsibility to address the parameters of                 
 voting in the state of Alaska.                                                
                                                                               
 Number 0623                                                                   
 MR. SHEA further explained that, according to the decision, "In               
 stark contrast with federal law, Alaska election law does not                 
 prohibit paying voters."  He proposed several wording changes to              
 the bill, as follows:  On page 2, line 3, change the word "at" to             
 "in".  On line 11, begin the sentence with "Offers of", rather than           
 "offers to".  Delete Section D 2, subsection (2).  He also pointed            
 out that the Attorney General has never admitted there were any               
 problems at all with the election.  Mr. Shea commented that he                
 personally spent 1,235 hours working on the Dansereau v. Ulmer              
 case.  He stated that the legislature would be doing a grave                  
 disservice to the citizens if it did not examine the conduct of the           
 Attorney General with regard to this case.                                    
                                                                               
 Number 1134                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVID FINKELSTEIN commented that he was sorry that             
 Mr. Shea lost his case.                                                       
                                                                               
 MR. SHEA responded that he did not lose his case, as Representative           
 Finkelstein was well aware.                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER interjected that all conversation in the committee            
 must go through the Chair.                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN observed that much of Mr. Shea's                   
 testimony was unrelated to the bill.  He stated that the                      
 administration has a responsibility to assure that elections are              
 not overturned for relatively minor matters.                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1206                                                                   
                                                                               
 DIANE SHRINER, Election Outreach and Training Coordinator, Division           
 of Elections, stated that the division supports HB 365, including             
 the amendments in the CSHB 365(JUD) draft.  She explained that the            
 Division of Elections frequently receives calls concerning the                
 legality of certain procedures, and the proposed legislation                  
 clarifies the intent of the law.                                              
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if the division supported the idea of                   
 removing Subsection (d)(2) from Section 2.                                    
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER responded that the administration does support the                
 language changes proposed by Mr. Shea, including removing Section             
 2(d)(2).  She thanked Representative Bunde for introducing the                
 bill.                                                                         
                                                                               
 Number 1325                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked for clarification.  On page 2, line 3, would            
 the division object to changing the word "at" to "in"?  Or, on line           
 11, beginning the sentence with "Offers of"?                                  
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER responded that she had not studied the bill in detail,            
 and was not prepared for Mr. Shea's comments.  She stated that she            
 would trust the committee's expertise.                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1360                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN noted that the phrase "offers to" was              
 already included as a qualifier, prior to the term "other valuable            
 things."  He stated that the phrase "offers of" was not necessary.            
                                                                               
 Number 1360                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated that he had distributed an amendment              
 with proposed wording changes.  He noted that the phrase "offers to           
 pay" was not the same as "offers for a game of chance."  He                   
 therefore encouraged the committee to accept the proposed changes.            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN reiterated that the bill drafter had               
 suggested removing the phrase "offers of," in order to avoid a                
 compound reference.                                                           
                                                                               
 Number 1431                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if there were any further questions.                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE made a motion to insert the word "in" to                 
 replace the word "at" on page 2, line 3.                                      
                                                                               
 Number 1520                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE CYNTHIA TOOHEY noted that the committee had not                
 adopted the draft CSHB 364C.  She moved that the House Judiciary              
 Committee adopt CSHB 364, version C, as the working draft.  There             
 being no objection, CSHB 364C was adopted as the working draft.               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE renewed his previous motion.                             
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted the motion would be amendment number 1.                 
 There being no objection, the amendment was passed.                           
                                                                               
 Number 1575                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE moved that the House Judiciary Committee pass            
 amendment number 2 to CSHB 364C.                                              
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted the amendment would delete page 2, line 18              
 page 2 line 21, and page 2 lines 22 - 24.                                     
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated that he had separated the issue of                
 lines 22 - 24 from the first half of the proposed amendment                   
                                                                               
 Number 1524                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted for the record that amendment number 2 would            
 change page 2, line 11 after (A) to insert "offers of" and on page            
 2, line 14, after (B) to insert "promises or offers of.                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN pointed out that the proposed wording              
 was redundant.                                                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied that he read the wording differently.            
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER concurred that the phrase "offer" in Section A did            
 not also apply to Section D.                                                  
                                                                               
 Number 1760                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN noted that Section D was only a                    
 definitions section.                                                          
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE concurred that the phrase "offer to pay" could           
 be removed from page 1.                                                       
                                                                               
 Number 1810                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if Representative Bunde would then be willing           
 to withdraw his amendment.  Amendment number 2 was withdrawn.                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN stated he had an amendment relating to             
 Section 2 B, page 2, lines 19 - 21.  He explained that he agreed              
 with the intent of the bill, but was afraid the language was too              
 limiting.  He did not believe the bill intended to prohibit post-             
 election parties which were non-partisan in nature, but rather were           
 sponsored by civic groups in an effort to encourage voting.                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE replied that he believed the bill as worded              
 did not exclude those types of events.                                        
                                                                               
 Number 1906                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN reiterated that he believed the phrase             
 did need to be broadened.  He suggested asking the bill drafter to            
 reword the phrase "gathering in support of or in opposition to a              
 candidate."                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER suggested adding the phrase "in support or                    
 opposition to an election."                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN suggested adding the phrase "encouraging           
 voting."  He stated he had no problem with the word "incidental,"             
 but wanted to specify the types of activities allowed.                        
                                                                               
 Number 2025                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN asked if the members were discussing                 
 something other than voting.                                                  
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER responded that they were not.                                 
                                                                               
 Number 2036                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN reiterated that the wording should make            
 it clear that encouraging voting in general was not disallowed.               
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked if the committee would consider adding on               
 line 21, page 2, changing the semicolon to a comma, and adding the            
 phrase "or that generally encourages voting;".                                
                                                                               
 Number 2090                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN moved that the House Judiciary Committee           
 adopt amendment number 2 to CSHB 364.                                         
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER noted for the record that since the previous                  
 Amendment Number 2 had been withdrawn, this would in fact be                  
 considered Amendment Number 2.  He further noted that the proposed            
 amendment would make the following changes:  on page 2, line 21,              
 adding the phrase "or that generally encourages voting;".  The                
 Chairman asked if there were any objections.                                  
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE stated that he would object, only because he             
 felt the Division of Elections should be consulted.                           
                                                                               
 Number 2135                                                                   
                                                                               
 MS. SHRINER expressed her opinion that the committee should not               
 start down a slippery slope.  Since the bill is dealing with the              
 issue of offering items of value in return for voting, the word               
 "incidental" is a key word.  She further stated that the Division             
 of Election would not have a problem with after election                      
 gatherings, so long as prizes were not offered.                               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN commented that he felt the witness                 
 misunderstood the proposed amendment.  He explained that the phrase           
 "purpose of the gathering" was being clarified.                               
                                                                               
 Number 2240                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE AL VEZEY urged the members to be cautious.  He                 
 stated that the proposed amendment was not as innocuous as it might           
 appear, and that it would actually open a window regarding what               
 incentives could be offered at a meeting to encourage voting.                 
                                                                               
 Number 2254                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN noted for the record that the bill                 
 drafter needed to clarify that the phrase "that generally                     
 encourages voting" only modifies "gathering."  He explained that              
 the concern being expressed was that the phrase could modify "food            
 and refreshments."                                                            
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER responded that he felt the record clearly described           
 the committee's intent.  He reiterated that the amendment only                
 related to the fact that the purpose of the gathering was to                  
 generally encourage voting, and did not modify what incentives                
 could be offered to that end.                                                 
                                                                               
 Number 2270                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY asked if the committee's intent was that the             
 amendment would include a banquet located near a polling place.               
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN responded that the question was a good             
 one, but that it did not relate to the proposed amendment.                    
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER agreed that the question did not relate to the                
 proposed amendment.                                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE VEZEY responded that he did believe the committee              
 was changing the intent of the bill.                                          
                                                                               
 Number 2315                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE FINKELSTEIN reiterated that the bill's intent was              
 not to discourage events held only for the purpose of encouraging             
 people to vote.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 2331                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE responded that he would sustain his objection.           
                                                                               
 Number 2364                                                                   
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER asked for a roll call vote on Amendment Number 2 to           
 CSHB 364C.  Representatives Bunde, Toohey, Vezey, and Green voted             
 No.  Representatives Finkelstein and Porter voted Yes.  Therefore,            
 Amendment Number 2 failed.                                                    
                                                                               
 Number 2370                                                                   
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE BUNDE moved that CSHB 364C as amended with attached            
 fiscal notes and individual recommendations be moved from the House           
 Judiciary Committee.                                                          
                                                                               
 CHAIRMAN PORTER announced that, there being no objection, CSHB 364C           
 with attached fiscal notes and individual recommendations was                 
 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee.                                  
                                                                               

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