Images of the ballots cast in the 2009 municipal election are available for public inspection now that a four-year legal battle between City Hall and an Aspen resident has come to a close. The city of Aspen made 2,415 ballot images available Thursday on its website, and released them to the attorney for Marilyn Marks, who sued the city for access to the ballots. There were a total of 2,544 ballots cast in the 2009 election; 129 of them have been withheld due to identifying markers that could be traced back to a voter. Marks, who on Thursday said she has not spent much time examining the images posted online, wondered why the city withheld 129 ballots and if officials plan to attempt to make contact with voters who cast them since it’s illegal to make distinguishing marks on a ballot.
“How did they get counted in the first place?” Marks asked. “The idea of a secret ballot is that no one — no one — should have an identifiable marking.”
One of the city’s main arguments against releasing the ballots is that it could encourage the practice of voters leaving marks on their ballots in a corrupt cash-for-votes system.
The city had previously fought disclosure of the ballot images all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Marks won a judgment from the Colorado Court of Appeals in September 2011, which found that the ballot images qualified as public records.
The Court of Appeals directed the City Clerk to withhold ballots that contained markings that could identify a voter, including all write-in votes.