Our rights of self-governance denied
Ryan Summerlin July 3, 2010
As we celebrate our democratic heritage during the July 4 holiday, Aspenites should ask why our “inalienable rights” were stripped away in Aspen’s elections. Without voter authorization, city officials transferred the citizens’ sovereign power of election oversight to an irresponsible out-of-state corporation to process the May 2009 election. Moreover, reportedly at the presumed instruction of city officials, Aspen’s original ballot images were destroyed, contrary to the City’s own position on state law and likely in violation of the court order to protect these records.
The many insults to our self-governance remain unaddressed by officials and the new election commission. Citizens trust that our elections are reliable, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. As an unsuccessful candidate for mayor, I do not question our mayor’s victory. I challenge our election process to become fully transparent and compliant with the law.
The government and your neighbors may know how you voted, because the government collected and distributed data that can be used to determine this. One election commissioner declares that the city “should not be admonished” because he claims that this damaging violation of constitutional guarantees was not intentional.
30% of the ballots were unsecured in an unattended City Hall ballot box with the keys dangling from it. Voter identification was not checked at the polls. Signatures on absentee ballot envelopes were not verified. Software changes were secretly made just hours before the polls opened. The software, in testing for the first time only 15 hours before the election, calculated the “winner” to be the candidate garnering the fewest votes! Early voting began 13 days before the earliest possible legal date. Before ballots were even printed, some voters voted on photocopies of mock ups. Neither Councilman Torre nor Johnson received the minimum 50%+1 of votes cast in order to be seated. IRV rules violated Colorado law because your second ranking for Council could hurt your first choice. Recounts were unfairly denied.
Officials claimed that the computerized system would be certified under state regulations, and that the Secretary of State had “signed off” on the system. Neither was remotely true. Council’s pre-election commitments for a hand count and audit were ignored. Promised transparency assuring “anyone can count the ballots for themselves” was denied. City officials falsely boasted that staff performed a post-election audit of the IRV process, also fabricating the declaration that every ranking was manually verified. TrueBallot, the City’s election contractor, published an editorial making over 20 blatantly dishonest claims. Both refuse to correct the record, or defend their claims.
Citizens were denied their fundamental right to conduct and verify the election. Verification must be routinely possible, even when the outcome is uncontested. Transparency-seekers are demonized by elected officials. Council launched illegal investigations of the former election commissioners and me attempting to discredit and intimidate us apparently as retaliation for seeking transparency. The city is attempting to force me to pay $70,000+ as a fine of sorts in punishment of my demands for transparency.
Aspen’s complex voting rules were developed by city insiders in closed door meetings unknown to the public or press. Insiders, some of whom, like Mayor Ireland and the city attorneys, although unauthorized, created and voted on proposed election methods. Violating Sunshine laws, no minutes were kept of these meetings where the bizarre, never tested voting system was concocted. Ironically, employing the ultimate double standard, months later Ireland led the charge to oust the former independent Election commissioners for meeting over lunch without public notice after they begin asking questions.
To add insult to injury, Aspen’s illegitimate corporate election administrator claims to have purposely destroyed original electronic tabulation records, reportedly at the instruction of the City. Why did City officials permit TrueBallot to take these original records out of state without restrictions on their distribution while prohibiting Aspen voters from seeing copies, claiming that such copies must remain secret? Yet TrueBallot was free to sell these records to the highest bidder, if they so chose. One TrueBallot executive acknowledges destroying these records under instruction after his firm learned that executives would be called as witnesses in the open records litigation. What is going on here?
The taxpayers are now funding $500 per hour for a criminal defense lawyer for Aspen officials as the District Attorney investigates.
Our elected officials demonize citizens who expose the facts of how some of them were elected. Where is the public pressure for integrity, transparency, and remediation concerning this most fundamental of our “inalienable rights” of self-governance?
We need grassroots support. The legal expense to continue to fight for the public’s right to self-governance is a tremendous burden and should be a shared investment by citizens affected by the policies of local government. Please see www.GlassBallotBox.org and help reinstate election transparency and integrity in Aspen.