Aspen task force chooses a ‘hybrid’ voting system |

Aspen task force chooses a ‘hybrid’ voting system

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” After weeks of wrangling and a lengthy meeting Friday afternoon, the Aspen City Council’s Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) task force is recommending that the council adopt a “hybrid” vote counting system for the upcoming municipal election.

“No election system is perfect,” deputy city attorney Jim True declared after Friday’s meeting, at which task force members rejected both IRV systems that were under consideration, and instead went with a last-minute compromise thought up by True.

“There will be a certain number of spoiled ballots,” True predicted, explaining that in every election some ballots are either filled out improperly or are in some way declared invalid.

But, he added, “I think most people will understand it” and will correctly cast their ballots for City Council and mayoral candidates.

And for those who do it wrong, he said, “the machine kicks it back out at you and tells that you filled it out incorrectly,” giving a voter a chance to do it over.

The task force had recommended to the council what is referred to as the “two votes counted ” batch elimination method,” which mimics how Aspen municipal elections have been done traditionally. The first- and second-candidate choices are counted, and then the rest are batch-eliminated based on how many votes they receive, if no one in the first round wins a majority.

“One vote counted, sequential elimination,” the other option under consideration, eliminates candidates based on their lowest vote counts. Those left with the highest number of votes are the winners.

But what the task force ultimately accepted is an amalgamation of the two, in which the first and second choices of the voters are tallied and, if one person garners the winning threshold of 50 percent plus one, the next two highest tallies are recounted according to voters’ rankings and any remaining candidates are “batch eliminated.”

If no single candidate wins in the first round, the highest four tallies are then recounted in a series of “sequential eliminations” until the winners are determined.

The new system is intended to ensure balloting will be finished and the winners known either on Election Day or within a day or so afterward, without forcing voters to go back to the polls after a month of run-off campaigning by candidates who failed to win in the first round of balloting.

The system for counting the votes will depend on specially designed software that will count scanned ballots on which voters will rank their choices for City Council or mayor.

The city will pay Caleb Kleppner, a senior analyst who specializes in election administration, $7,500 to write the program and count the ballots on election night.

The council is to hold a public hearing on the new voting system on March 9 at City Hall, culminating a process that began when voters in 2007 decided to eliminate runoff elections and instead go with IRV.

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