Election Commission seeking to allow more time for voters
Ryan Summerlin September 3, 2010
ASPEN – The Aspen Election Commission wants the City Council to allow voters who plan to leave town before the 12-day early voting period in May elections to have a chance to cast their ballots beforehand.
People who wish to do so would have to provide proof that they will leave before the voting period starts.
The Election Commission, which is taking a more active role this year in designing election processes, said the measure would enable voters who could have been “disenfranchised” otherwise.
“I’ve always been big on enfranchisement,” said City Clerk Kathryn Koch, one of the Election Commission’s three members.
Koch said in the group’s meeting Thursday that, in the past, she has allowed residents to vote as early as 19 days before the municipal election that takes place every other May.
But the process was heavily informal.
“My practice has been to get the ballots finalized and allow voting as soon as practical,” Koch said, stressing that many residents leave town in April when the ski resorts shut down.
Fellow Election Commissioner Bob Leatherman said all processes need to be formalized in Aspen city elections in light of a large number of extensive complaints the commission is reviewing about the May 2009 election, many of which focused on alleged breaches or lack of formal processes.
He said the informal atmosphere during elections is part of the identity of Aspen as a small town, but that a well-established process would quell much of the post-election controversy.
“Now we may be in an atmosphere where we can no longer” operate so informally, Leatherman said. He added that City Council approval on the process would ensure more voters the ability to cast ballots.
“If you want to enfranchise, you let them come in when there’s a ballot,” Leatherman said.
Election Commissioner Ward Hauenstein agreed.
If a person wants to vote, but fails or is not able to do so before leaving town, he or she must apply for an absentee ballot, which can be a painstaking process.
The commission will bring the proposal before the City Council, along with a number of other issues it plans to discuss before the May election. The City Council can approve the proposal as an ordinance, said City Attorney John Worcester.
The commission also established solutions to several other alleged missteps with the May 2009 election, including the assurance that ballots will be properly shuffled to ensure voter anonymity.
Critics of the election have said that, because the ballots weren’t adequately shuffled, it’s possible to compare ballot records to the voter log from the election to determine how certain people voted, which would violate the Colorado Constitution.