Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/13/1996 01:14 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.