HOUSE COMMITTEE ON ELECTIONS AND RULES

 

 

April 16, 2005 Hearing Room Medford

10:00 A.M.  Tapes 41 - 42

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:            Rep. Derrick Kitts, Chair

Rep. Kim Thatcher, Vice-Chair

Rep. Debi Farr

Rep. Mitch Greenlick

Rep. Paul Holvey

Rep. Steve March

 

MEMBER EXCUSED:            Rep. Billy Dalto

 

VISITING MEMBERS            Rep. Peter Buckley

                                                Rep. Sal Esquivel

 

STAFF PRESENT:                  Cletus Moore, Committee Administrator

Annetta Mullins, Committee Assistant

 

MEASURES/ISSUES HEARD:

                                                Introduction of Committee Measures – Work Session

                                                HJR 7 – Work Session

                                                HCR 15 – Public Hearing and Work Session

                                                HJR 1 – Public Hearing

                                                HB 2583 – Public Hearing

                                                HB 2551 – Public Hearing

           

These minutes are in compliance with Senate and House Rules.  Only text enclosed in quotation marks reports a speaker’s exact words.  For complete contents, please refer to the tapes.

 

TAPE/#

Speaker

Comments

TAPE 41, A

003

Chair Kitts

Calls the meeting to order at 10:31 a.m., thanks committee members for their willingness to travel throughout the state, and asks members to introduce themselves.

011

Committee members, and visiting members Rep. Buckley and Rep. Esquivel

Introduce themselves. 

036

Chair Kitts

Reviews order of agenda items for the meeting.

053

Chair Kitts

Opens a work session for the purpose of introducing committee measures.

INTRODUCTION OF COMMITTEE MEASURES

057

Rep. Thatcher

MOTION:  Moves LC 3488 (EXHIBIT A)  AND 3559 (EXHIBIT B) BE INTRODUCED as a committee measures.

061

Cletus Moore

Committee Administrator.  Reads summaries of LC 3488 and LC 3559.

 

 

VOTE:  6-0-1

AYE:            In a roll call vote, all members present vote Aye.

EXCUSED:  1 - Rep. Dalto

 

Chair Kitts

The motion CARRIES.

077

Chair Kitts

Closes the work session on introduction of committee measures and opens a work session for the purpose of reconsidering HJR 7.

HJR 7 – RECONSIDERATION

078

Rep. Thatcher

MOTION:  Moves to SUSPEND the rules for the purpose of reconsidering the vote by which HJR 7 was sent to the floor with a BE ADOPTED recommendation.

 

 

VOTE:  6-0-1

AYE:            In a roll call vote, all members present vote Aye.

EXCUSED:  1 - Rep. Dalto

 

Chair Kitts

The motion CARRIES.

089

Rep. Thatcher

MOTION:  Moves to RECONSIDER the vote by which HJR 7 was sent to the floor with a BE ADOPTED recommendation.

091

 

VOTE:  6-0-1

AYE:            In a roll call vote, all members present vote Aye.

EXCUSED:  1 - Rep. Dalto

 

Chair Kitts

The motion CARRIES.

096

Chair Kitts

Comments that HJR 7 will be rescheduled when Rep. Lim returns from his trip overseas.

098

Chair Kitts

Closes the work session on reconsideration of HJR 7 and opens a public hearing on HCR 15.

HCR 15 – PUBLIC HEARING

096

Cletus Moore

Committee Administrator.  Reads summary of HCR 15.

 

Chair Kitts

Notes the many sponsors of HCR 15 and states that the service Mark Hatfield has given to Oregon is not an issue to political parties.

113

Rep. Greenlick

States that he has admired Sen. Mark Hatfield enormously as a statesman through time and has gotten to know him over the last six years.  States Hatfield is an extraordinary individual and is a hero to those who believe that politics ought to be nonpartisan. 

123

Chair Kitts

States that he will echo Rep. Greenlick’s sentiments.  Explains he worked for Congressman Joe Scarborough who was not considered bipartisan.  Comments on book by Scarborough saying the Republicans now own Hatfield the biggest apology for their spending.  Believes the kudos go beyond the moderates, liberals and conservatives.  It goes to a statesman. 

145

Chair Kitts

Closes the public hearing and opens a work session on HCR 15.

HCR 15 – WORK SESSION

147

Rep. Thatcher

MOTION:  Moves HCR 15 be sent to the floor with a BE ADOPTED recommendation.

152

 

VOTE:  6-0-1

AYE:            In a roll call vote, all members present vote Aye.

EXCUSED:  1 - Rep. Dalto

 

Chair Kitts

The motion CARRIES.

SPEAKER MINNIS will lead discussion on the floor.

159

Chair Kitts

Closes the work session on HCR 15 and opens a public hearing on HJR 1.

HJR 1 – PUBLIC HEARING

 

Cletus Moore

Committee Administrator.  Reads summary of HJR 1.

 

Chair Kitts

Comments that HJR 1 invokes a constitutional amendment to require annual sessions, which the legislature in Oregon has never done.

175

Kate Culbertson

League of Women Voters of Ashland.   Presents a prepared statement in support of HJR 1 (EXHIBIT C).

181

Chair Kitts

Comments he thinks this topic is starting to gain momentum.  In light of the last few sessions the tensions, the special sessions, the length of the last session without special sessions, which was the longest in Oregon history, this is a valid discussion.  Asks  Rep. Buckley and Rep. Esquivel to comment on HJR 1.

191

Rep. Buckley

Speaks in support of HJR 1.  States he would back the proposal with the hope that it would encourage greater participation on a regular basis by the citizens of Oregon.  Believes it is a legitimate attempt to address the disconnect from state government that people feel. 

 

Chair Kitts

Comments that the 120 day session one year and the 60 day session the next year totals six months.  States that he believes if the member knew that constitutionally they had 120 days to get business done, there would be a lot less dragging of the feet and a lot less logger heads and partisan gridlock. 

220

Rep. Esquivel

Speaks in support of HJR 1.  States he thinks any way we can initiate and try to set an environment for compromise, it behooves us to do so.   If one is up against a timeline, one is more apt to compromise.  The best compromise is something that no one likes because everyone gives and takes.   Believes this has some very good possibilities because it puts you in a timeframe and members would have the four-month session and have the remainder of the time and the off years.  Also thinks it will bring the legislature to the point where members will start working together more amicably because being in the building too long is detrimental to relationships and believes this has some very good possibilities. 

260

Chair Kitts

Comments that because this is such a big bill and affects so many people in the legislature, perhaps before the committee decides to go to a work session the committee could have a public hearing on it in the evening to allow all legislators to testify on the bill and say what this would mean to them.  Comments that unless we want rich and retired people or people whose spouse will support their political habit, we have to define what the Legislative Assembly means.  Believes annual sessions would be more conducive to bringing a wider array of people into the process and not become the most exclusionary, elitist club in Oregon.

286

Rep. Greenlick

Comments he thinks that would be a good idea but it would also be useful in that kind of hearing to have whoever the experts are in how this might actually work.  It seems it would be very useful if the regular committees stayed through until the even number year session.  Believes it would be very good public debate to have that discussion.

300

Chair Kitts

States the other component would be something that would dovetail to say each committee shall meet once a month. 

310

Greenlick

Comments he was thinking we might have along with this a bill that would deal with the details, not put them in the Constitution.  It would be good to have a companion bill that says if this is endorsed by the people, here is what it means.

317

Rep. March

Comments he thinks the concept has some merit and would suggest opening it up in writing in the odd-numbered year, the four-month session, to some extent for consideration of regular legislation.  There could be a limited number of bills or some other limitation.  Without the on-going committees we would want to have the ability to run some legislation.

330

Chair Kitts

Adds that he thinks if the committees were required to meet once a month and start working legislation, then coming to the point of opening up for consideration of legislative concepts, believes there would be less legislation in the process. 

 

Rep. Farr

Comments she appreciates the comments of Chair Kitts and believes there would be less and better legislation and there would be more time for discussion.  States she likes the idea of committees meeting once a month and believes that work groups would need to be established to work on specific issues.  The work groups could meet more often. 

359

Rep. Greenlick

Comments that if the committee is going to seriously consider HJR 1, Chair Kitts might think about forming a work group to talk about some of the details and perhaps a companion bill.

363

Chair Kitts

States he thinks that is a great idea.  Asks staff to note the suggestions and will consider establishing a work group.  Asks the committee members and guest members if they would like certain people to be a part of the work group to submit their names to staff.  States it will be a big work group.  Believes labor, business, the League of Women Voters and other groups should be there.  States that if we go this path, it will include a lot of different things, such as efficiencies of raising legislators’ salaries because the time commitment will be year round,   and annually raising the allotment for staff for legislators. 

403

Chair Kitts

Closes the public hearing on HJR 1 and opens a public hearing on HB 2583.

HB 2583 – PUBLIC HEARING

 

Cletus Moore

Committee Administrator.  Reads summary of HB 2583.

415

Kathy Beckett

Jackson County Clerk.  Presents a prepared statement in opposition to HB 2583 (EXHIBIT D). 

Tape 42, A

011

Chair Kitts

Asks how many registered voters they have on file that have  not submitted the required documentation.

017

Beckett

Responds that they currently have close to a thousand or more.  States they have about 80,000 registered voters in Jackson County.

021

Rep.  March

Asks if there were reports of people paying  a special bounty to register one party or the another.

 

Beckett

Responds they had a registration drive locally just outside their main Department of Motor Vehicle office in Medford that was paying $1 for each Republican registration cards.  At one time it was alleged that they were tearing up any other registrations they might receive because they were only getting paid for Republican registrations.  If that happened in the beginning, it ceased to keep on happening.  It was taken care of immediately.  Folks who had been registering and were concerned that their registrations might have been torn up came into her office and reregistered again.   Many of them were duplications so they knew it had been taken care of.  States she personally has a real problem with paying for any kind of signature gathering.  Believes it is a huge injustice to the system.   

043

Rep. Thatcher

Asks if the 1,000 voters who had not provided sufficient identification under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) actually voted had their votes counted. 

 

Beckett

Responds that if they voted, all their votes counted. Explains that the HAVA covers federal elections.  If someone registers to vote now, the person would receive ballots for all the elections.  If the person did not send in identification, the ballot would be counted anyway.

063

Rep. Thatcher

Asks if Beckett finds it meaningful to have a HAVA requirement for a certain types of identification and even if they don’t provide it, it doesn’t matter.

 

Beckett

Responds that it is very labor intensive and puts their office through hoops that they are required to do by law but when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t have any bearing in the end.  Asks if we have a problem with non-citizens registering to vote.  States they have never had a problem with that.  The goal is to get people registered and have them active in the political process.  It seems like we keep putting into place deterrents from allowing that to happen.  States she is concerned that we could put into law anything that would make it more difficult for citizens to register and vote.  States there may not be a real problem and we might be over legislating ourselves. 

086

Chair Kitts

Comments that he disagrees with Beckett on that point because Oregon is probably one of the easiest states in which to register to vote.  States that 70 plus percent of those eligible to vote register to vote and of that 70 plus percent that are registered to vote, 80 plus percent participate.  States he agrees there may not be a case of fraudulent activity in Jackson County but would be willing to bet those counties in Washington state that were allowing felons to vote and people to vote twice probably would have stood here and testified to the same effect.  States he does not think the committee has the intention of pointing fingers or saying we are doing something wrong because he believes the county clerks in Oregon have been working hard to do a very good job and are following the law to the letter, but whether that is enough to potentially protect from something that may or may not be right or wrong is more the intent. 

115

Beckett

States that voter registration law is the same in every state. 

 

Chair Kitts

Adds that all states do not have vote by mail.

119

Rep. Greenlick

Asks if there were two registrations in a household, one as William J. Jones and one as W. James Jones listed with the same birthday, would each get a ballot and if both ballots are returned, would they both be counted..

139

Beckett

Responds they go through their voter registration list and look for those types of things.  When they find matched birthdates with similar names, they contact the people.  If it was not caught, two ballots would go out.  As long as their signature matched their registration card, potentially they could both count.    

161

Chair Kitts

Ask if that will not be encountered when the centralized voter system is in place.

 

Beckett

Responds they would hope so.  They hope they are tightening up the system as tight as they can make it.

163

Rep. Greenlick

Asks if it would be a felony if a person voted the two ballots.

 

Beckett

Responds affirmatively.

166

Rep. Thatcher

Asks if they would be open to allowing those who vote overseas and whose ballots may not make it here in time to have their ballots counted.

178

Beckett

States that under current Oregon law  ballots must be received no later than 8:00 p.m. on election day in order to be counted.  That includes military ballots.  If the legislature determines they would like to see a change in that, it is up to the legislature.  It would take clerks longer to certify the election.  States she is in favor of giving the military any break we can give them but they also feel they send the ballots out in plenty of time for them to be returned on time.  States they go the extra mile to assist the military by allowing them to FAX their selection back.  States they will FAX the ballot to them and they have done overnight mails with the military.  In Jackson County they have not seen a huge amount of military ballots coming back after the election.  Whether we want to extend the deadline after the election is a bigger question than she can answer. 

 

Rep. Thatcher

Comments that Beckett said not a lot of ballots were returned after the election so it probably would not affect the certification of the election.

220

Beckett

Asks if the deadline is extended beyond the election day, why would it only be extended for the military.  That gets into how long do you wait after the election.  States there will always be a few ballots that are going to come in after election day.  States that she has people in Jackson County that mail their ballots on election day and she makes a special trip to the distribution center at the post office to try to retrieve as many of those ballots as possible before the next morning.  States that she knows many of the other counties do the same thing because they are going the extra mile to try to assist the voters in their right of franchise. 

219

Chair Kitts

Comments that in Florida the late arrival provision is for military that are overseas or out at sea—those who are not mailing it. 

228

Rep. Holvey

Asks if counties keep track of the number of ballots they send overseas and the number of ballots they send to the military overseas. 

253

Beckett

Responds affirmatively.  States that they keep records on everything and know exactly how many ballots are in the mail, how many are sent to the military overseas and they track them when they come back in.

265

Rep. Holvey

Comments they probably also keep track of the countries ballots are mailed to and have some idea of the countries that  have problems getting ballots back on time.

270

Beckett

Responds affirmatively.  States if this committee needs that information, they are able to provide it.

277

Rep. Greenlick

Asks if Beckett knows what the return rate was on the military ballots.

 

Beckett

Responds she doesn’t know exactly but it is high.  Offers to provide the information for all the counties.

289

Chair Kitts

Asks staff to request Annette Newingham provide the number of overseas ballots mailed and returned.

302

Lynn Horstemeier

Ashland resident.  Testifies in support of HB 2583.  Comments on discrepancies of her name and requirements for voting in California and Oregon.  States that the way we register people to vote in Oregon, anybody can register. 

412

Rep. Greenlick

Comments the issue the committee has raised is not whether they are meeting the federal requirements.  Some are concerned that the federal requirements are not strict enough.

423

Clifton McMillan

Klamath County resident.  Testifies in support of HB 2583.  States he believes this is one of the most critical issues that the state and nation faces.  Citizenship bears responsibilities and those don’t necessarily come cheap.  If it takes a little effort to comply in the electoral process to substantiate the fact that you are qualified by the reason of citizenship, it is not too much to ask.    Oregon is about 14th as a per capita percentage of illegal aliens residing in the state. We are seeing the migration come north.  We have educated the children in our schools, they are now speaking the language and participating in society but still may not be citizens.  There needs to be a way to address that.  Believes Oregon’s system is way too loose.  States that after the drive to register voters in the last election, a group emerged from behind the scenes in the country that were prepared to challenge the results of the election based on the fact that the federal Constitution requires citizenship to vote in federal elections. 

TAPE 41, B

023

McMillan

States that any state, presumably under states’ rights doctrine could decide a state policy that on election day anyone who wanted to walk up could vote.  The nine or 10 states that do not require proof of citizenship in order to register to vote could have thrown the election.  If the election had come down to a close contest, this mechanism of challenge was waiting to happen.  If it had happened, the constitutional challenge would have been to disqualify the votes in the federal offices in the states that did not require citizenship as a prerequisite to registering to vote.  States he does not think Oregon’s system should contribute to that possibility.

040

McMillan

States he is sorry there is nothing in this proposal that would go back to address people currently registered who may not have followed the rules.  Recognizes it is difficult enough for the county clerks to go forward but does not think it should be an impossible burden for them.

049

McMillan

Comments on other election issues.  States he has been worried about the process since the advent of mail out ballots.  States he has been registered in Oregon for 47 years and over that period of time knows his signature has changed though his voter registration card has not.  Feels there should be a biometric identifier that accompanies and certifies a ballot.  The easiest way would be the thumb print.  In the ballot pack there could be a small dry ink envelope for people to use.  States it is alarming what a large percent of the people do not live where they are supposed to live.  Without some positive identifier, thinks the whole process is subject to manipulation.

070

Chair Kitts

States that if the signatures do not match or they are deemed not to match, the county clerks do call and make every effort to get in touch with the people. 

 

McMillan

Responds that he has been a witness in the county clerk’s office and stood behind often very elderly people who volunteer to perform these services for the clerk and more often it is just that it is close enough and it goes in the good basket.

 

McMillan

Comments he thinks it is a very positive effort by the legislature to hold these hearings around the state. 

093

Chair Kitts

Comments that this committee has made more stops statewide than any other committee to try to get a sense of what people think.  Thanks McMillan for traveling from Klamath Falls to testify before the committee. 

115

Vanya Sloan

League of women voters of Ashland.  Presents a prepared statement in opposition to HB 2583 (EXHIBIT E).

144

Chair Kitts

Advises Sloan that the bill does not require a person to carry around their birth certificate or passport, they simply need to provide it as one of the other HAVA requirements.

 

Sloan

States she can see where it might be a problem because people may not know it is needed and many people do not have passports.  It would be an increased burden and believes this body should be doing everything they can to encourage participation in democracy. 

160

Horstemeier

States that another form of identification accepted by DMV for a driver license is a matricular card.

171

Brenda Gold

Medford resident.  States she is an immigration attorney.  She sees this has to do with how great a role the State of Oregon wants to take in enforcing federal law.  States she also sees there is lots of federal law on this matter.  There are various checks and the ones familiar to her are in the Immigration and Nationality Act.   States that one of the questions to a person wanting to become a citizen is whether they have ever voted in an election in the United States.  Whether the person is applying for U. S. residency or U. S. citizenship, if the answer was yes to the voting question, their application will be denied.  There could be other repercussions.  If someone is applying for residency and has voted in an election, it comes to the attention of the immigration examiner and the application is denied and the person may be put in deportation or removal proceedings. 

 

Rep. Greenlick

Asks how many times Gold has experienced people saying they voted in an election.

 

Gold

States she has not come across anyone who has said they have voted.   

233

Chair Kitts

Asks if any of the applicants who did not admit to voting have been found to have voted.

 

Gold

Responds it has not come across her desk.  States she has had people lie on the application, but not about voting.

240

Rep. Thatcher

Asks how they would know if someone was lying about voting.

 

Gold

Responds that county clerks maintain records of who the registered voters are. 

273

Chair Kitts

Asks if an immigration person could run the name through the county clerks to see if they are lying. 

 

Gold

States that she does her own checking on some of the questions—anything that is a criminal red flag or an immigration red flag having to do with any prior immigration proceedings are the things she checks on.  States that their clients have lived in so many different counties in so many different states and typically they don’t pursue the question on voting. 

295

Rep. Greenlick

Comments the chair has taken the committee on a tour of the state which has been a very enjoyable tour and very informative.  States he thinks the sponsors of the bill have had worries with good cause but does not believes that there has been a single instance in the testimony that has provided evidence of a widespread attempt of illegals voting nor has there even been a suggestion of a single known specific instance of my neighbor votes all the time and he should not.  States while we need to protect against problems, there is a balance on the other side of the protections. 

320

Rep. Esquivel

Comments his conclusion is we do not have a checks and balance system.  Questions why a driver license would give one a status to vote.  States he is concerned about some of the issues.  States he should have asked Kathy Beckett how we know there is no fraud.  Asks if we know for sure that we have a system in place that does not have fraud in it and he does not believe anyone here can say yes.  Believes we do have some holes in the system.

 

Chair Kitts

Submits for the record a prepared statement from Ruth Bendl in support of HB 2583 (EXHIBIT F). 

349

Chair Kitts

Closes the public hearing on HB 2583 and opens a public hearing on HB 2551.

 

HB 2551 – PUBLIC HEARING

362

Chair Kitts

Enters into the record a prepared statement by Kate Culbertson, League of Women Voters of Ashland (EXHIBIT G) and Kathy Beckett, County Clerk of Jackson County (EXHIBIT H).

365

Chair Kitts

Closes the public hearing on HB 2551, thanks the committee members for their attendance and adjourns the meeting at 11:52 a.m.

 

 

EXHIBIT SUMMARY

 

  1. Introductions, LC 3488, staff, 4 pp
  2. Introductions, LC 3559, staff, 2 pp
  3. HJR 1, prepared statement, Kate Culbertson, 1 p
  4. HB 2583, prepared statement, Kathy Beckett, 1 p
  5. HB 2583, prepared statement, Vanya Sloan, 1 p
  6. HB 2583, prepared statement, Ruth Bendl, 3 pp
  7. HB 2551, prepared statement, Kate Culbertson, 1 p
  8. HB 2551, prepared statement, Kathy Beckett, 1 p