Before the public can look at voted ballots from recent city elections, officials will have to go through each one and decide on a case-by-case basis if stray markings could be enough to identify a voter, under procedures being drafted by the City Clerk’s office. In the case that a ballot is marked up enough that it may not be anonymous, City Clerk Kathryn Koch said she will recommend that the person’s votes be copied onto a duplicate ballot without the stray markings. Koch will present her proposed procedure for viewing ballots to the city’s Election Commission, in a meeting tentatively scheduled for late next week. The state Supreme Court ruled in June that it would not hear the city’s appeal in the case of Marks v. Koch, brought by citizen activist Marilyn Marks. She sued the city after it denied her request in 2009 to see ballots from that year’s municipal election. The Supreme Court this week declined the city’s request to reconsider aspects of the case. Marks prevailed at the appellate court level in September 2011 after a local district court judge ruled in the city’s favor. The city fought Marks’ open records request on the grounds that releasing the ballots would violate a state constitutional provision guaranteeing a secret ballot.
Going through each ballot from the 2009 election will be a time- and labor-intensive process, Koch said. That election was the first and only in which the city used instant runoff voting, where voters rank their preferences to avoid later runoff contests. Due to the complicated nature of the ballot, there are likely to be more markings on them because voters might have made stray marks in attempts to explain their intent where it may not have been clear, Koch said.