Aspen deserves answers
With all respect due to those who created Aspen’s new municipal election system, I suspect few understand it better than Marilyn Marks.
I live in Massachusetts, and have never met Marilyn. But as an election official, former IRV proponent, software developer, electronics designer, and someone who has spent more than 100 hours studying documents and video from Aspen as well as the Colorado Constitution and laws, I can say that the facts are on her side.
The list of issues is long, but we won’t dwell on execution problems like the failure of the IRV logic and accuracy test before the May 2009 election, or the certification of incorrect tally results, still on the city website to this day. Nor will we quibble about the fact that uncertified proprietary software was used, and the “open source” ChoicePlus Pro software does not actually use open source licensing. Instead let’s look at a few promises and realities.
In the March 9, 2009, City Council meeting, Jim True promised that the new method he proposed “will not allow one’s fifth ranking to count over one’s second ranking,” noting that state law makes this a requirement. The importance of this is that it takes away the advantage of bullet voting. But it’s not true, as Millard Zimet has pointed out. State law requires that “an elector’s lower ranking of a candidate does not count against the candidate to whom the elector gave the highest rank.” This means any lower ranking, not just the fifth.
I have used Aspen ballot data and the same ChoicePlus Pro software used by TrueBallot to prove that, for example, if voters who voted for Torre No. 1 also voted for Jack Johnson No. 2, Jack would have won the second City Council seat instead of Torre. The lower rank choice of Jack would count against the voters’ No. 1 choice of Torre. Reality: Aspen runs afoul of state law with this system.
In the same City Council meeting it was also said that the software would be programmed for Aspen rules. It was not. Instead, Cambridge rules were used, resulting in the incorrect initial tally. Reality: The latest software download still does not implement Aspen rules. A 2011 hand count would be a good idea.
Marilyn is not a “sore loser,” as many have been led to believe. Before she decided to run for office, she became troubled by the way city officials used the IRV mandate to invent a completely new and problematic election system. She should have challenged the May 2009 election, but there is an unfortunate stigma that makes candidates much too shy about doing so.
Looking forward, Aspen voters should take a hard look at what is being said by experts nationally about IRV and about Aspen’s unusual system in particular. They should demand straight answers from city officials, and decide for themselves if what they have is really what they thought they were getting when they voted for IRV in 2007.
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