The Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office will grant Marilyn Marks’ request to inspect a handful of ballots cast in the 2010 election, County Clerk Janice Vos Caudill announced Monday.
Specifically, Marks — an Aspen resident and a self-described election transparency activist — and anyone else who is interested, will be able to eyeball five to 10 of the ballots from precinct 6, which mostly encompasses Snowmass Village. The review will be conducted Thursday under the watchful eye of Vos Caudill and county elections manager Dwight Shellman, as well as video cameras.
Marks and other observers will not be able to touch the ballots, which will be returned to the ballot box after the review. “What I’m trying to do is break the ice,” Marks said, acknowledging that Thursday’s limited review will be mostly symbolic in her quest for election transparency. “We just need to get used to the idea that this is no big deal … [and] demonstrate to the press and the council that ballots are anonymous.”
The city of Aspen’s refusal to grant Marks’ Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to review digital copies of ballots from the 2009 municipal election — on the grounds that doing so would violate the law — prompted her to sue the city.
The Colorado Court of Appeals last month ruled in Marks’ favor, finding that voted ballots are public records subject to inspection under CORA, so long as the ballots released cannot be traced back to the voter.
The city is planning to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court, on the grounds that releasing voted ballots as a matter of policy is harmful to the public interest, and that identification is possible in some circumstances. Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland said last week that he believes data mining is the motivation behind calls to inspect voted ballots.