Report Title:

Elections; Voting by Mail

 

Description:

Authorizes an election by mail voting system for federal, state, and county elections. Requires elections to be conducted by mail when chief election officer, in consultation with county clerks, determines an election by mail is economically and administratively feasible. Makes appropriations.

 


THE SENATE

S.B. NO.

156

TWENTY-FOURTH LEGISLATURE, 2007

 

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

A BILL FOR AN ACT

 

 

relating to voting.

 

 

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF HAWAII:

 


SECTION 1. In the 2004 presidential election, a record number of voters requested absentee ballots. This trend demonstrates that more voters are finding voting by mail to be an easier option than voting at the polls on election day.

Other states, such as Oregon, have used voting by mail as the exclusive method for casting ballots. From their experience with voting by mail, these states have found that:

(1) Voter participation increases with voting by mail because it is easier for people to vote;

(2) Voting by mail is cost effective, as there are fewer costs associated with the staffing of polling places;

(3) Having the ballots for a longer period of time lets voters study their choices and find answers to their questions before casting their votes; and

(4) Unlike computerized voting, voting by mail continues to have a paper ballot that is verifiable and may be audited.

The purpose of this Act is to establish an election by mail program to be utilized as the exclusive means of casting a ballot for a federal, state, and county primary, general, or special election, if authorized by the office of elections.

SECTION 2. The Hawaii Revised Statutes is amended by adding a new chapter to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"Chapter

Election by mail

   -1 Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:

"Ballot" shall have the same meaning as defined in section 11-1.

"Chief election officer" means the individual defined in section 11-1.

"Clerk" shall have the same meaning as defined in section 11-1.

"County" shall have the same meaning as defined in section 11-1.

"Election" shall have the same meaning as defined in section 11-1.

"Election by mail" means an election conducted exclusively by mail.

"Voter" shall have the same meaning as defined in section 11-1.

   -2 Election by mail; determination. (a) An election by mail may be conducted by the chief election officer if the chief election officer, in consultation with the county clerks, determines that conducting an election by mail is economically and administratively feasible.

(b) The chief election officer shall provide notice pursuant to section 1-28.5 no later than sixty days before the election, that an election by mail shall be conducted and that no poll will be open on election day. This information shall also be mailed to each voter with the ballot.

   -3 Procedures for conducting election by mail. (a) Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), the county clerk shall mail by nonforwardable mail:

(1) An official ballot;

(2) A return identification envelope; and

(3) A secrecy envelope;

to each registered voter between eighteen days and fourteen days before the date of the election.

(b) If the county clerk determines that a voter does not receive daily mail service from the United States Postal Service, the county clerk shall mail by nonforwardable mail:

(1) An official ballot;

(2) A return identification envelope; and

(3) A secrecy envelope;

to the voter between twenty days and eighteen days before the date of the election.

(c) If the voter requests a ballot be mailed outside of the State, the county clerk shall mail by nonforwardable mail:

(1) An official ballot;

(2) A return identification envelope; and

(3) A secrecy envelope;

to the voter not sooner than the twenty-ninth day before the election.

(d) Upon receipt of a ballot by mail, the voter may:

(1) Mark the ballot;

(2) Sign the return identification envelope supplied with the ballot; and

(3) Comply with the instructions provided with the ballot.

The voter may return the marked ballot to the county clerk by the United States Postal Service or by depositing the ballot at any place of deposit designated by the chief election officer or county clerk. All postage for ballots returned by the United States Postal Service shall be provided by the voter.

   -4 Replacement ballots. (a) In an election by mail, a voter may obtain a replacement ballot. To vote a replacement ballot, the voter shall complete and sign a replacement ballot request form. The request for a replacement ballot may be made by mail, in person, or by other means designated by the chief election officer according to the procedures provided by the rules adopted by the chief election officer pursuant to chapter 91.

(b) Upon receipt of a request for a replacement ballot, the county clerk or a designee appointed by the clerk shall:

(1) Verify the registration of the voter and ensure that another ballot has not been returned to the voter;

(2) Make a notation on the list of registered voters that the voter has requested a replacement ballot;

(3) Mark the return identification envelope so that it may be identified as a replacement ballot; and

(4) Issue a replacement ballot.

   -5 Counting of ballots. (a) In an election by mail, the method of preparing ballots for counting may begin no sooner than the seventh day before the election. In the presence of official observers, counting center employees may start to count the ballots on the day of the election. All handling and counting of the mailed-in ballots shall be according to the procedures provided by the rules adopted by the chief election officer pursuant to chapter 91.

(b) A mailed ballot shall be counted if:

(1) It is received by the county clerk not later than the end of the period determined by the chief election officer;

(2) It is received in the return identification envelope;

(3) The envelope is signed by the voter to whom the ballot is issued; and

(4) The signature of the voter is verified pursuant to subsection (c).

(c) The county clerk, or a designee appointed by the county clerk, shall verify the signature on the return identification envelope according to the procedures provided by the rules adopted by the chief election officer pursuant to chapter 91.

(d) Upon receipt of a voted replacement ballot, the county clerk or a designated appointee shall verify that a completed and signed replacement ballot request form has been received by the county clerk or is included with the voted replacement ballot. If a request form has been completed and signed by the voter and received by the county clerk, the county clerk or a designated appointee shall process the ballot. If the replacement ballot request form is not completed or signed by the voter or not received by the county clerk, the county clerk or a designated appointee shall not process the ballot."

SECTION 3. Chapter 15, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"15- Election by mail. When the election by mail system established pursuant to chapter     is to be used in any election, absentee voting under this chapter shall not be permitted."

SECTION 4. Section 11-1, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended as follows:

1. By amending the definition of "ballot" to read:

""Ballot", a ballot, including an absentee ballot, is a written or printed, or partly written and partly printed paper or papers containing the names of persons to be voted for, the office to be filled, and the questions or issues to be voted on. "Ballot" includes a ballot used in an election conducted by mail. A ballot may consist of one or more cards or pieces of paper, or one face of a card or piece of paper, or a portion of the face of a card or piece of paper, depending on the number of offices, candidates to be elected thereto, questions or issues to be voted on, and the voting system in use. It shall also include the face of the mechanical voting machine when arranged with cardboard or other material within the ballot frames, containing the names of the candidates and questions to be voted on."

2. By amending the definition of "voting system" to read:

""Voting system", the use of paper ballots, electronic

ballot cards, voting machines, voting by mail, or any system by which votes are cast and counted."

SECTION 5. Section 11-16, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

"(a) [Any] For any election not conducted by mail pursuant to chapter     , any qualified person unable for any cause to present oneself in person before the clerk for registration may register to vote by mail, not later than thirty days prior to a primary or general election, through the affidavit on application for voter registration or other form prescribed by the chief election officer. The form shall include a self-subscribing oath for the applicant to swear to the truth of the allegations in the application. An applicant unable to write for reason of illiteracy, blindness, or other physical disability shall have the applicant's mark witnessed by a person who shall sign the affidavit in the space provided. Application forms shall be made available to any qualified person through community groups, political parties, and other groups prescribed by the chief election officer. Application forms shall be made available to any qualified person at the time of that person's driver's license application or renewal through the examiner of drivers."

SECTION 6. Section 11-17, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

"(a) The clerk, not later than 4:30 p.m. on the sixtieth day after every general election, shall remove the name of any registered voter who did not vote in that general election, and also did not vote in the primary election preceding that general election, and also did not vote in the previous general election, and also did not vote in the primary election preceding that general election, and also did not vote in the regularly scheduled special elections held in conjunction with those primary and general elections, if any, with the exception of:

(1) Those who submitted written requests for absentee ballots as provided in section 15-4; or

(2) Anyone who preregistered pursuant to section 11-12(b).

If a person voted, at least once, in any of the above-mentioned elections, the person's name shall remain on the list of registered voters. For this purpose, "vote" means the depositing of the ballot in the ballot box whether the ballot is blank or later rejected for any reason. In the case of voting machines, "vote" means the voter has activated the proper mechanism and fed the vote into the machine. In the case of an election by mail pursuant to chapter     , "vote" means the voter has returned the ballot to the chief election officer or county clerk by the United States Postal Service or by depositing the ballot an a place designated for ballot deposit by the chief election officer or county clerk."

SECTION 7. Section 11-21, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsection (a) to read as follows:

"(a) The county clerk may designate a registration clerk, who may be an election official, at any of the polling places or at the place of deposit as designated by the chief election officer or county clerk pursuant to section    ‑3, in the county on the day of the election."

SECTION 8. Section 11-91.5, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending subsections (a), (b), and (c) to read as follows:

"(a) Any federal, state, or county election [held other than on the date of a regularly scheduled primary or general election] may be conducted by mail[.] as provided in chapter    .

(b) The chief election officer, in consultation with the county clerks, shall determine whether a federal or state election[, other than a regularly scheduled primary or general election,] may be conducted by mail or at polling places.

(c) The chief election officer, in consultation with the county clerk, shall determine whether a county election[, held other than on the date of a regularly scheduled primary or general election,] may be conducted by mail or at polling places. An election by mail in the county shall be under the supervision of the county clerk."

SECTION 9. Section 11-92.3, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by amending its title and subsection (a) to read as follows:

"11-92.3 Consolidated precincts; natural disasters; postponement; [absentee voting required;] special elections. (a) In the event of a flood, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic eruption, high wind, or other natural disaster, occurring prior to an election, that makes a precinct inaccessible, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may consolidate precincts within a representative district. If the extent of damage caused by any natural disaster is such that the ability of voters, in any precinct, district, or county, to exercise their right to vote is substantially impaired, the chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections may [require]:

(1) (A) Require the registered voters of the affected precinct, district, or county to vote by absentee ballot pursuant to section 15-2 [and may postpone]; or

(B) Require the registered voters of the affected precinct, district, or county to vote by mail pursuant to chapter    ; and

(2) Postpone the conducting of an election in the affected precinct, district, or county for no more than twenty-one days; provided that any [such] postponement shall not affect the conduct of the election, tabulation, or distribution of results for those precincts, districts, or counties not designated for postponement.

The chief election officer or county clerk in the case of county elections shall give notice of the consolidation, postponement, or requirement to vote by absentee ballot[,] or by mail, in the affected [county or] precinct, county, or district prior to the opening of [the precinct] each polling place by whatever possible news or broadcast media are available. Precinct officials and workers affected by any consolidation shall not forfeit their pay."

SECTION 10. Section 11-184, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"11-184 Election expenses and responsibilities in combined state and county elections. Election expenses in elections involving both state and county offices shall be shared as set forth below:

(1) The State shall pay and be responsible for:

(A) Precinct officials;

(B) Instruction of precinct officials when initiated or approved by the chief election officer;

(C) Boards of registration;

(D) Polling place costs other than supplies: installation rentals, ballot boxes, voting booths, custodians, telephones, and maintenance;

(E) Other equipment such as ballot transport containers;

(F) Temporary election employees hired to do strictly state work; and

(G) Extraordinary voter registration and voter education costs when approved by the chief election officer.

(2) The county shall pay and be responsible for:

(A) Normal voter registration, voters list maintenance, and all printing connected with voter registration, including printing of the voters list;

(B) Temporary election employees hired to do strictly county work;

(C) Maintenance of existing voting machines, including parts, freight, storage, programming, and personnel;

(D) Maintenance and storage of voting devices and other equipment; and

(E) Employees assigned to conduct absentee or voting by mail polling place functions.

(3) The remaining election expenses shall be divided in half between the State and the counties. Each county will pay a proration of expenses as a proportion of the registered voters at the time of the general election. These expenses shall include but not be limited to:

(A) Polling place supplies;

(B) All printing, including ballots, but excluding printing connected with voter registration;

(C) Temporary election employees not including voting machine programmers doing work for both the State and county;

(D) Ballot preparation and packing; and

(E) All other costs for which the State or county are not specifically responsible relating to the operation of voting machines, electronic voting systems, and other voting systems except paper ballots to include but not be limited to real property rentals, equipment rentals, personnel, mileage, telephones, supplies, publicity, computer programming, and freight.

The responsibility for the above functions shall be determined by the chief election officer where the responsibility for such functions has not been assigned by the legislature.

Any future expenses not presently incurred under any voting system now in use or to be used shall be assigned to [paragraphs] paragraph (1), (2), or (3) [above] by the chief election officer upon agreement with the clerks or by the legislature."

SECTION 11. Section 19-6, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended to read as follows:

"19-6 Misdemeanors. The following persons shall be guilty of a misdemeanor:

(1) Any person who offers any bribe or makes any promise of gain, or with knowledge of the same permits any person to offer any bribe or make any promise of gain for the person's benefit to any voter to induce the voter to sign a nomination paper, and any person who accepts any bribe or promise of gain of any kind as consideration for signing the same, whether the bribe or promise of gain be offered or accepted before or after the signing;

(2) Any person who wilfully tears down or destroys or defaces any election proclamation or any poster or notice or list of voters or visual aids or facsimile ballot, issued or posted by authority of law;

(3) Any person printing or duplicating or causing to be printed or duplicated any ballot, conforming as to the size, weight, shape, thickness, or color to the official ballot so that it could be cast or counted as an official ballot in an election;

(4) Every person who is disorderly or creates a disturbance whereby any meeting of the precinct officials or the board of registration of voters during an election is disturbed or interfered with; or whereby any person who intends to be lawfully present at any meeting or election is prevented from attending; or who causes any disturbance at any election; and every person assisting or aiding or abetting any disturbance;

(5) Every person who, either in person or through another, in any manner breaks up or prevents, or endeavors to break up or prevent, the holding of any meeting of the board of registration of voters, or in any manner breaks up or prevents, or endeavors to break up or prevent, the holding of any election;

(6) Any person, other than those designated by section 11‑132, who remains or loiters within the area set aside for voting as set forth in section 11-132 during the time appointed for voting;

(7) Any person, including candidates carrying on any campaign activities within the area described in section 11-132 during the period of time starting one hour before the polling place opens and ending when the polling place closes for the purpose of influencing votes. Campaign activities shall include the following:

(A) Any distribution, circulation, carrying, holding, posting, or staking of campaign cards, pamphlets, posters and other literature;

(B) The use of public address systems and other public communication media;

(C) The use of motor caravans or parades; and

(D) The use of entertainment troupes or the free distribution of goods and services;

(8) Any person who opens a return envelope containing [an absentee]:

(A) An absentee ballot voted under chapter 15 other than those authorized to do so under chapter 15; or

(B) A ballot voted under chapter     other than those authorized to do so under chapter    ;

(9) Any unauthorized person found in possession of any voting machine or keys thereof;

(10) Every person who wilfully violates or fails to obey any of the provisions of law, punishment for which is not otherwise in this chapter specially provided for."

SECTION 12. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $        , or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2007-2008, and the same sum, or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2008-2009, for the purpose of implementing and administering the election by mail program.

The sums appropriated shall be expended by the department of accounting and general services for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 13. This Act shall take effect on July 1, 2007.

 

INTRODUCED BY:

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