Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
02/18/2010 09:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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SB 260-ELECTRIC & TELEPHONE COOPERATIVES' VOTING 9:01:52 AM CHAIR MENARD announced that the first order of business to come before the committee was SB 260. She turned the gavel over to Vice-Chair Meyer. SENATOR MENARD, sponsor of SB 260, said SB 260 gives telephone and electric cooperatives the option of allowing members to vote by electronic transmission. Currently, co-op members may only vote in person or by mail. These methods are outdated and could be having a negative impact on member participation in elections. She noted that the fiscal note for SB 260 is zero. The Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA) members have already voted to adopt a new bylaw allowing electronic transmission voting. MTA, and other co-ops, now need the Legislature to amend the statutes to allow electronic transmission voting. 9:04:40 AM PHIL STEYER, Director of Government Relations and Corporate Communications, Chugach Electric Association, said Chugach Electric is an Anchorage-based, member-owned cooperative providing electric service and is strongly supportive of SB 260. He stated that electronic transmission voting would be optional, not mandatory, and co-op members would also need to amend their bylaws to enact it. Chugach has already amended its own bylaws to enable electronic transmission voting if state statute is changed. SENATOR FRENCH asked if co-ops are going to electronic voting. MR. STEYER replied that co-ops in the Lower 48 are going to electronic voting. He said Chugach Electric has spoken with some firms who provide this service elsewhere about providing electronic voting in Alaska. SENATOR FRENCH asked if SB 260 has had any opposition. MR. STEYER replied no, not that he knows of. He said a lot of work has been done to put the idea of electronic voting out there and take input from different cooperatives during the resolutions process in the Alaska Power Association. Any issues have been resolved to get to SB 260 today. He explained that the real key for co-ops is that electronic voting is optional and would only be taken up by co-ops whose members vote to amend their bylaws. 9:08:05 AM SENATOR FRENCH asked if the implementation of electronic voting would cost the coops money or save them money. MR. STEYER replied that, for Chugach Electric, he believes the costs would increase initially but would decrease later on. Setting up and processing electronic voting would cost money initially. He explained that members would still be mailed a ballot packet, with the option for electronic voting included, for at least the first few years. Eventually, the system could change so that members who prefer to vote electronically would notify the co-op and not be sent a packet. Money will be saved in the long-term. VICE-CHAIR MEYER asked if a paper trail will be available should the validity of the electronic voting be challenged. MR. STEYER replied that the method used to implement electronic voting would determine if a paper trail would be kept; Chugach Electric has not decided on the method. He said Chugach, or any co-op, should not engage in electronic voting unless an election would be fair, secure and able to withstand any challenge. SENATOR MENARD said different companies that set up electronic voting would have securities in place. 9:12:05 AM SENATOR MEYER noted that other states use electronic voting with success. RICHARD GAZAWAY, Advisory Section Manager, Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED), said he prepared the fiscal note and is available for questions. GREG BERBERICH, CEO, Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA), said MTA is a member-owned cooperative providing local, long- distance, wireless broadband internet and DTV services. He stated his support for SB 260 and said the Internet has changed communication and business. In 2007, MTA members overwhelmingly voted to adopt a change in its bylaws to allow electronic voting. He said electronic voting will be faster and more efficient, save printing costs, make counting more efficient and reduce wasted paper. 9:15:08 AM He noted that MTA's bylaw includes provisions that if electronic voting is conducted, members will have three options to vote: electronically, in person or by mail upon request. SENATOR MEYER asked if MTA has an auditor during elections to verify that someone is not voting in person, on paper and electronically. MR. BERBERICH replied yes and said that an independent firm conducts the elections. 9:16:15 AM VICE-CHAIR MEYER closed public testimony. SENATOR FRENCH moved to report SB 260 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). There being no objection, the motion carried.