Aspen

Tag Archive

Colorado: Aspen City Council forecasts complicated process in viewing voted ballots | Aspen Daily News

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.

Full Article: City Council forecasts complicated process in viewing voted ballots | Aspen Daily News Online.

Colorado: State Supreme Court declines to rehear city’s appeal in ballot case | Aspen Daily News

The Colorado Supreme Court has declined to rehear the city of Aspen’s appeal of a lower court’s decision that allows public review of voted ballots from the 2009 election. The decision likely ends a years-long legal fight between the city and Aspen resident Marilyn Marks, who sued the municipality and City Clerk Kathryn Koch after Marks’ open records request to review the ballots was denied.

Full Article: BREAKING NEWS: State high court declines to rehear city’s appeal in ballot case | Aspen Daily News Online.

Editorials: Sunshine and the ego | Aspen Daily News

It was a tiny election in the scheme of things. Only 2,544 votes were cast on a quiet May day in 2009. But over three years later, the ballots in the 2009 mayoral race remain at issue, their photographic images locked up in a court fight which may cost taxpayers well over $200,000 if the winner takes all. What has this squabble over ballot inspection proven so far? In the short run, we proved to ourselves that instant runoff voting produced enough of a stink that we booted it. The procedure, run here by a Maryland firm, was supposed to simulate a runoff if no one won a majority. When we learned that there were multiple ways for guessing how people would vote, we decided that an actual runoff beat one run by a computer program. But that race had another by-product. It produced a court battle that seemed rooted in a clash of egos.

Full Article: Sunshine and the ego | Aspen Daily News Online.

Editorials: Sometimes it’s what a court doesn’t do that matters | Denver Post

Did you see the really important Supreme Court judgment handed down on June 28, 2012? No, not the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ho hum affirmation of the Affordable Care Act. I’m talking about the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the city of Aspen appeal of the Marks v. Koch ballots-as-public-records case. If you missed it, after three years, Marilyn wins. By deciding to not hear the city’s appeal, the Colorado Supreme Court confirmed that ballots are public records. Colorado’s citizens can rightfully and independently verify their election results, and clerks, both elected and appointed, need to both keep ballots anonymous and allow for their public inspection. What a concept. Something strange happens to a lot of people once they are elected. All of the sudden their unyielding belief in fairness and equality takes a back seat to anything that might deleteriously impact their political station. So it should surprise no one that a failed candidate took a small but insidious issue to the higher ground of statewide public interest.

Full Article: Sometimes it’s what a court doesn’t do that matters.

Colorado: Election Commission punts request to view ballots | AspenTimes.com

The battle over ballots at Aspen City Hall continues. On Tuesday, the Aspen Election Commission decided to punt on two public-records requests to view ballots that were cast in the city’s 2011 municipal election held in May.

Commissioner Ward Hauenstein said that while he favors an open and transparent government, he received outside advice from a Denver attorney who said the Election Commission could not rule on the matter because it isn’t the custodian of election records.

“According to information provided by you, the Aspen Election Commission does not have personal custody of the paper ballots in question,” attorney John S. Zakhem wrote. “Therefore, the [commission] is not the custodian of the paper ballots and is not obligated to produce them in response to the [Colorado Open Records Act] request.”

Full Article: Election Commission punts request to view ballots | AspenTimes.com.

Editorials: Maurice Emmer and Harvie Branscomb: Why insist on secrecy but dismiss anonymity? | AspenTimes.com

We both write repeatedly about the importance of election transparency. We present facts. We don’t make things up. Stories about revealing ballot “secrets” often sound like scary tales told to children. They are designed to frighten, not inform. Jack Johnson’s scary story recently published in another paper might trigger your instinct to fight, but that’s what fiction and political propaganda are intended to do.

Johnson’s column, and recent announcements by the city of Aspen, misconstrue election and open-records law as well as misrepresent the Marks v. Koch case and the Court of Appeals’ unanimous opinion in favor of ballot transparency. As untrue assertions have become Aspen’s norm, here we try to separate fact from fiction.

Full Article: Maurice Emmer and Harvie Branscomb: Guest opinion | AspenTimes.com.

Colorado: Pitkin County to release a handful of ballots | Aspen Daily News

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.” 

Full Article: PitCo to release a handful of ballots | Aspen Daily News Online.

Colorado: Aspen to appeal ruling over ballot images | AspenTimes.com

In a somewhat expected move, the city of Aspen has decided to appeal last week’s state appellate court judgment that said local political activist Marilyn Marks has a right to inspect ballot images from the 2009 mayoral election. “The Aspen City Council has directed staff to appeal the Marks v. Koch case to the Colorado Supreme Court,” says a statement released Tuesday from the City Attorney’s Office. “At issue in the lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2009, is the right of citizens to expect that their cast ballots will remain secret.”

The city maintains that it is residents’ constitutional right to vote their consciences knowing that their ballots will remain “forever secret,” the prepared statement says. The lawsuit against City Clerk Kathryn Koch, who declined Marks’ request to view ballot images from the spring election that Marks lost, states that the Colorado Open Records Act and other state laws allow public ballot inspection as long as it is not possible to discern a voter’s identity. “This case is not about election transparency,” the city’s statement reads. “The 2009 municipal election was one of the most transparent elections in city and state history. This case involves the sanctity of the secret ballot.”

Full Article: Aspen to appeal ruling over ballot images | AspenTimes.com.