Aspen City Council to discuss voting methods | AspenTimes.com

Aspen City Council to discuss voting methods

Aaron Hedge
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – City Council will hold its second discussion Monday on a potential November ballot item that could repeal instant runoff voting, or IRV.

The system could be replaced by a winner-take-all model or a modified version of the traditional majority runoff that would give mayoral and City Council seats to candidates who receive 40 percent or more of the vote.

The former, while by far the simplest option, has been criticized as possibly giving seats to candidates who don’t win by anything close to a majority of the vote.

The latter is less likely to require a runoff than the method used before voters adopted IRV in 2007 because the threshold is not as strict as the 50 percent requirement of the existing method.

The Aspen Election Commission, a body comprised of members of the local Democratic and Republican parties and charged with certifying elections and identifying any potential problems with local election processes, was not consulted for the new options.

IRV was vetted by the City Council and adopted by voters in 2007 as a method that would inject more efficiency into the voting process because it decides the results of runoffs instantaneously.

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Ballots allow voters to rank their candidates in order of preference. When there is no majority, the candidate with the fewest number of votes is eliminated, and those votes are redistributed to the candidates who were ranked second on the ballot by the voter.

At a recent council work session, Councilman Dwayne Romero said he wanted to move on from IRV because it led to a string of litigation between the city and Aspenite Marilyn Marks, an election transparency activist.

“We’re just gonna go down a rabbit hole,” Romero said. “I’ve already been there. I don’t want to go there again.”

Marks, a mayoral candidate in the 2009 election, finished in second place behind Mick Ireland. She sued the city last year because it refused to comply with an open-records request for the images of the election ballots, which Marks contended are public records. She said she didn’t want to contest the outcome of the election, but simply audit the ballots.

City attorneys said throughout the legal battle that the images are technically ballots, which are protected from public inspection by the Colorado Constitution.

After a district court judge dismissed the lawsuit, Marks filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office that alleged several irregularities and illegalities with the May 2009 election.

District Attorney Martin Beeson on Friday said his office would not pursue the allegations.

Marks said in e-mails to media over the weekend that she was pleased with parts of Beeson’s announcement, citing a desire that no employees with the city would be criminally prosecuted, but that she was disappointed that the investigation wasn’t more thorough.

IRV has lately been the subject of scrutiny in other communities around the country by election-integrity activists. They say the method is subject to a complex mathematical phenomenon called non-monotonicity that can allow the candidate with the fewest votes to win.

ahedge@aspentimes.com