Friday, March 12, 2010

State Affairs: Electronic Voting for Coops, Violent Crimes Compensation, and Personnel Board Changes

I got there half an hour late today.  I've got some blog issues I'm trying work through.  But they hadn't gotten far through the agenda.

Mar 11 Thursday 8:00 AMCAPITOL 106

Moved CSHB 336(STA) Out of Committee

Moved Out of Committee

Heard & Held

Moved Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED

Moved Out of Committee

  • Over an hour was spent discussing whether Telephone and Electric Coops should be allowed to go to electronic voting.  

  • The Board that pays compensation for crime victims in need was requesting the emergency funds that can be paid between board meetings be increased from $1500 to $3500.  Much of this is used by victims of domestic and sexual violence.  The amount hasn't changed since 1975 and, they said, isn't enough for first and last month's rent for someone who needs to relocate immediately.

  • HB 348 is intended to increase the size of the Personnel Board from three to five and to change how the members are appointed.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court would offer three candidates to the Governor who could reject them, if I got that right.  The basic motivation for this bill as I understood it was:

    Following the public perception of the Personnel Board hearings on former Gov. Sarah Palin:
    •   Make this a legislative decision, rather than an executive branch decision.  That pulls it away from people making up the rules that police themselves.
    • Enlarge the committee - three people is too small. If one person is absent, it's a major loss.
    • Add the Supreme Court to dilute some of the power of the Governor over people who will possibly consider charges against the Governor. 

      I believe there were some constitutional questions raised regarding separation of powers, but the attorney's opinion (Alpheus Bullard) seemed to say half a dozen of one and six of the other.  

And that's as far as they got by 10am.  There had been a Saturday session scheduled this week, but it was canceled. A lot of constituent meetings are scheduled for Anchorage this week, and maybe other places as well.  But Chair Lynn said that since we're into the second half of the session and lots of work remains to be done, expect a Saturday session next week. 

Here are my rough notes from the meeting.  I wasn't going to post them, but something's strange with the Gavel to Gavel.  I know they had some server problems.  But now it looks like stuff is up, but it doesn't give the embeddable format it had before and the downloads are cfm, not mp3 any more.  So maybe it's just still down.  So STANDARD WARNING;  NOTES ARE VERY ROUGH, USE AS AN APPROXIMATION OF WHAT WAS SAID AT THE MEETING.

[Photo:  Window view at State Affairs hearing]

8:33:  [I came in midstream, things were scheduled to begin at 8am]
Gatto:  I’m looking how to scam the system, those techies know how to do this. 
Chugach Rep: - Can’t answer every question about the what ifs. 
Gatto:  Why not both a paper and electronic ballot. 
Chugach Rep:  What happens the machine stuffs the ballot in the envelope, accidentally, stuffs in two.  The outgoing process.  On return can only send one ballot.  Your name gets stamped now when the ballot comes in and if we get another one we know we already have one.  Everyone can cast in person.  We have procedures to make sure that they haven’t voted by mail and come in.  Also people who think they voted, but they didn’t sign the envelope.  If they show up, we give them a ballot. 

Gatto:  What if someone mails a ballot for Candidate A, eletronic for B, and personal for C.  Would you investigate for fraud?
Chugach Rep:  It happens ½ dozen times a year where machine jams or something happens and a person votes more than once.  “Here’s an envelope that contains two ballots, which one do you want to select?”  The committee makes a decision.  You’d think they would be identical.  Usually they are.  Once or twice in my 20 years they were different. 

Committee makes its own decision about how such ballots are counted. 
Gatto:  It’s one ballot per household right?
Chugach Rep:  One per member.  A single person can have a membership.  Married couple can share a membership.  Safeway - corp - has
Gatto:  My wife gets a mail ballot and I counter her vote by voting electronically. 
Chugach Rep:  We have procedure - we used to have if we get two ballots, the first one counts.  More recently I think it’s the last balot that counts.  Committees rationalize differently.  My goal is to have an election that survives any challenge. 

Gruenberg:  three lines of Q
1.  Sponsor statement MTA have voted to allow new by laws to allow this voting.  In process, before implementation can take place Legislature must amend to allow this.  So no one has started this?
Chugach Rep:  as far as I know no one has begun this, tho MTA and Chugach have voted to change
2.  “Excpet that electronic transmission will not be the only way a person can vote:”  Technically, you could have just two - electronic and personal, which would eliminate the method most people use.  I’d like to amend to allow mail as one option.  I have people in my district without computers which would nullify their right to vote.
Chugach Rep:  If all we wanted to do was just get it passed this year, perhaps.  But here’s my concern.  Whats the advantage of electronic transmission.  One advantage is money saved.  One way from people who don’t get a packet, just electronic.  Perhaps we ease this.  step 1.  We mail all for a few years.  2.  We mail if you don’t tells us not to.  3.  Then we only mail to people who ask for it.

Corollary - Alaska Permanent Fund - we all were mailed a packet.  Then you can go onliine.  And now, no packet.  They say “Go online.  If you want it mailed , let us know.

I don’t want to be required to mail everyone forever.  Our goal is to have an election that can withstand a challenge.  If we eliminated mail right away, we would be challneged and we’d probably lose.  I can only speak for Chugach. 
Gruenberg:  NOte that says resolution needs to go to court rather than the RCA.  I think we should use RCA which has more expertise.  How would coops feel?
Chugach Rep:  This statement is not strictly to electronic.  Fact is that RCA doesn not have jurisdiction over our elections today.  If a member has a problem with an election today and for past 44 years, they take it to court system now.  This would be a dramatic departure. 

Lynn:  What’s the typical turnout?
Chugach Rep:  Last three elections - about 21% or roughly 14,000 votes cast per year.  For a coop election, that is pretty good.  Many get much lower.  Single digits.  For better or worse, Chugach gets a lot of attention and interest.  Board would like to see more people participate, particularly younger people.  Electronic might help.  Also, looking at PFD, this may provide us a savings.  Two lower 48 coops said, no increase in voting, no survey, so we don’t know.  But had no problems with security.

Petersen:  Many businesses allow customers to pay online.  Have to set up username, password, etc.  If you had that set up, wouldn’t be too big a stretch to let them vote electronically.  I imagine Chugach does.
Chugach Rep:  Thru the chair, you are correct.  Can pay bills online.  Some don’t even want paper.  Security?  Day one, we’d gone thru same drill about how someone might try to scam us electronically.  Got to where we were comfortable.  Banks were way ahead.  Many of those lessons will translate to electronic voting. 

Petersen:  I expect even more convenient in rural areas where members spread over wide area.  Especially since we’re getting broadband in two areas that previously didn’t have it. 

Mr. Rich Gazaway RCA: 
9:00 am Close public testimony.

Seaton:  Penalty for voter fraud in coop election would be similar, felony, for other elections.  Dept of Law?

Mr. Courtney?  Mike Cor… Dept. of Law, not here for this bill, but I could get back to you on this question.

Lynn:  Did this come up in the other house? 

Seaton:  It’s of interest to me Mr. Chair, but won’t hold up now.
Wilson:  Don’t want to hold it up either, but something we want to know.  Anything in here about a  penalty for fraud? 

Chugach Rep:  Unaware of criminal penalties for fraud in coop election.  Also unaware of penalty in state or local election.

Wilson:  Something the coops need to think about.  What are you going to do? 

Chugach Rep:  Chugach since 1948.  We had potential for fraud since then.  Last 20 years, the possibility has been there.  It does cause us all stop and think about how someone will scam you.  I’m sure there are people out there who will think about how can they make mischief, just as they thought that about paper elections.  I would say that in my time supervising the ection we haven’t had anything to cause us to cite someone for fraud.

Wilson:  I think it probably, because we are oving into new world, doing things different, more on interenet, it behooves your organization to think about this.  I just heard today the person who got into Palin’s blackberry is going to trial.  Just a kid, a college kid.  People more into that now. 

Seaton:  Of interest to me because of the new technology, if a criminal penalty, it alleviates the chance of people on a lark going in.  If there is that it will go to court, and coops will be stringent looking after their systems. 
[Photo:  Chugach Rep after testimony]

[Real issue not faking a ballot, but hacking the system and how it counts the votes.]

Johnson:  Similar to Seaton.  Five years ago id theft not an issue.  As things change, might be wise of us.  Not up to coop to make it criminal.  It’s up to us.  What’s at stake 45 years ago in a Chugach election compared to today is miles apart.  Penalties can serve as deterrants, lot at stake and big penalty, may deter someone.  Wise for legislature to look at the deterrent aspect.  Not the issue of this bill. 


Gruenberg:  Election Code penalties for voting in name of another or vote several times - apply to government elections, not coops or corporate elections.  I found nothing on either of those provisions. 

9:14am  moved.  Passes from committee. 


Nancy Manly (Staff to Rep. Lynn):  Increases amount from $1500 to $3500.  Hasn’t changed since 1975.  Old figure isn’t enough to cover costs, like first/last months rent.  This is deducted from final award given victims, which is capped at $40,000.
Briar Hopkins, staff to Sen. Joe Thomas. 
Gives history of the program.  This year 24 emergency cases awarded for $29,000.  Used for relocation and counseling. ??
Administrator of Violent Crime Compensation Board:  478 claims, 22 by emergency awards in 2009.  $1500 limit is really affecting emergency relocation. 
Johnson:  Would you go ver the process.
Ad:  I review claim, that basic crime met - police report. 
Johnson:  Board meets five times a year?
Ad:  I send precise of event and send it to them.
Johnson:  ???
Ad:  three board members have to respond to me by phone or email to say yes for emergency and at next board for further award. 
Lynn:  How long for victims to get money?
Ad:  24 hours, then depends on how quickly check can get thru - 5-7 working days.
Gatto:  Wonder, ever get scammed, and then say, how do we get the money back.
Ad:  We seek to avoid, application form, claimant sign they will have to repay if they get money from another source (insurance).  We are only going to award emergency if it looks clear cut.  I can’t say it never happens, but extremely unlikely.
Gatto:  Peoeple deserving easy, broke, and victim, what about people with money?
Ad:  Board has statues by which board can make the awards.  Also, federal statute says board is last resort.  Board cannot make award for pain and suffering. 
Gatto:  Concern back then, do you have enough money?  We’re reluctant to ad another category.  You run out of money?  PFD’s from felons?
Ad:  We haven’t run out of money.  We’ve had sufficient money.  Also federal grants, we get 60 cents for every dollar we spend.

Petersen:  We are concentrating on stopping domestic violence.  Are a lot victims because scene of dv?
Ad:  Yes, it is a large proportion of claims, but don’t have figures at hand.  Less than 50%.  Emergency is very often sexual assault dv victim.
Petersen:  It could take a week for a person to get a check, person needs relocation, week would seem like a long time, are you able to expedite.
Ad:  I agree, unfortunately we are limited by check processing.  We can ask for it to be expedited.  In extreme there are shelters.

Mr. Godfrey online:  Violent Crime Compensation Board.  Jerry Godfrey chair of the comp. board.  We’ve sought increase because when board created in 72 was $500, 75 raised to $1500, which equals $6000 today.  To rise to level of emergency has to be for lost wages, mental health counseling, relocation.  We have about 5 emergency awards to ten between meetings, typically dv, have to cooperate with law enforcement, moment of opportunity to get person convicted, we have to take advantage of that if they want out.  If we don’t get them out, they will backtrack on cooperation.  BF says, when I make bail I will kil you.  Affects mental health and personal safety.  Generally, minors involved.  Get female and children out.  Of late, just a female with no children to get enough to get first and last month, or a plane ticket out of Nome or Fairbanks to Juneau.  Times of the essence,  Admin spoke well. 
Victim of fraud?  I’d say twice in our tenure.  We’ve made policy.  We realized award not used as it should have been. 
Lynn:  When you relocate, place is confidential. 
Godfrey:  We ask them to make a plan.  If they ask for ticket to Vegas or Hawaii, it won’t happen  They have to have support system.  confidential on our part, but we can’t control if she reveals in a couple of weeks.  When you have dv person, it’s our window of opportuity to get her cooperation to prosecute.  We have to take advantage of that when she feels most willing to cooperate.  We’ll get her out of there as quick as possible.  There’s not much turning back, it happens.  When you get them to take tht gigantic step. they are resovlved and they aren’t going back.  And will try to maintain their location as a mystery to the abuser.

Lynn:  Anyone
Wilson:  Thank you.  Looking at chart for 2009, violent crimes new claims received.  Most came from anchorage, area, Juneau.  Some areas that are very small but have had a lot of violent crime claims.  I’m wondering have you been able to look at an area and say, this may be the reason, able to make some assumptions because of it.

Godfrey:  Can only do so empirically,  Haven’t tasked our staff to analyze the data, we could if that’s something you’d like to see.  We note that with a number of places, look at types of crime.  Places underrepresented - I grew up out of Kodiak - fishermen tend to get rowdy.  I think Kodiak is underrepresented.  Are they under reported?  I don’t know.  We can look at Ketchikan, comparable, volumn is higher than I would expect looking at the rest of the state and types of crimes pretty severe - physical assault, battery or worse.  Wow, another of those from bethel.  Maybe victims are learning about us in one area, but in another area they don’t know about us.  We do note that - communities underrepresented.  Not a bad things if they aren’t victims.  We’d love to go out of business

Wilson:  i know you can’t make hard assumptions, but when we go on to budgets, we try to think about what we can do in prevention.  If you can say - in this area, etc.  basically from same family, or alcohol, drugs, etc.  It would be interesting to know.

Ad:  We had tasked the admin. a couple of years ago.  We have a wealth of data about crime and victimization and substantiation through police reports.  We had a request to comply any related to alcohol so we could list % claims that reflected sex crimes, alcohol, and two other categories.  Did for our own sake, but didn’t have way to publicize it except for our annual report. 

Johnson:  If someone goes to a shelter, are they (shelter) compensated or is isn't strictly for individual.?

Godfrey:  no, we don’t compensate shelters, that’s why they’re there.  I don’t think we have the authority. 

Johnson:  Thank you, and that was the right answer in my opinion.

9:48:  bill moves

Sica: (Staff to Rep. Lynn)  increases membership from 3-5 members, modifies selection process to create a layer of insulation, without hampering gov’s power to appoint the board.  Three members isn’t a lot on any board.  Gov. makes choice of three nominees from Chief Justice.  3 members from party with most votes in last election.  More independence when making judgments when considering complaints about the Gov, AG, etc. 

Chief Justice appoint through rejectable lists, retains govs power to point.  Two different parties
SEc. 2:  Conforming change not more than 3 can be of the same party. 
SEc. 3:  Conflict section.  APOC like, but less restrictive, things can’t do
SEc. 4.  Conforming - raise numbers for quorum
Stay til finished with term. w/i 60 days, SC justice submits 6 names for two openings.

Alpheus Bullard (report cited by Sica)  any time you change something like this you raise constitutional questions about balance of power between gov and legislator,  He says it goes this way and that, and can’t say which way it goes.

STate Alaska Website Personnel board described as independent agency appointed by the governor.  This will help board, complainant, public perception.  APOC - four of the member of APOC two each come from central committee of the two highest powers and fifth recommended by the other four to the gov.  We have a rejectable list. 

Lynn:  You think Chief Justice might trump the impartiality…?

Seaton:  p. 2 line 15  Assist lobbyists - you mean for contributions? 

Sica:  language identical APOC statute - one of the prohibited behaviors.  Doesn’t answer your question, already in law. 

Seaton:  I’d like committee to look at that, whether language too broad. 

Petersen:  Fiscal note - zero.  Wondering when they meet, don’t they travel?  Wouldn’t that be an additonal expense.

Sica:  Looking at number of meetings.  I don’t know how many meetings - they establish theiry own procedures.  Good question. 

Lynn:  intent to help erase the perception of the fox watching the chickens. we want to hep insulate the governor from these types of situations.  I don’t think it will happen again, I want to apologize to dept. of Law that waited patiently through a this with their four bills. 

Hold HB 348 to next state affairs committee meeting.  Don’t have Tuesday schedule together.  Will tyr to put this first in line Tuesday.  We’re getting close to having to have Sat. Sessions.  Prepare for the next Saturday. 

10:01 adjourned.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.