Aspen to require voter identification at the polls |

Aspen to require voter identification at the polls

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Starting with the May 3 city elections, Aspen voters will be required to show identification at the polls.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Monday to reject an amendment that would have stricken the ID requirement from a new ordinance that implements various changes to the city’s election rules. The amendment was offered by Mayor Mick Ireland – who argued passionately that requiring identification at the polls was a “solution in search of a problem” – and only found support from Councilman Steve Skadron.

Pitkin County elections manager Dwight Shellman III, serving as a consultant to the city on its rewrite of election rules, explained before the vote that the new ID requirement was added to make Aspen consistent with county and state regulations. State law requires some sort of identification at the polls, but it does not have to be a photo ID or a driver’s license.

Those who fail to provide identification – even a utility bill or bank statement would suffice, proponents of the ID rule said – won’t be turned away from the voting booth. They can fill out a provisional ballot, which typically are not included in the election-night tally, but are later verified and counted before the election results are certified, days after the election.

Ireland said there has never been a recorded instance of fraudulent voting in Aspen elections, and that the requirement will serve to “disenfranchise” many voters, chiefly those who simply forget to bring ID to the polls.

“I don’t see any evidence that it’s ever been tried here,” Ireland said of the idea that unregistered people would go to the polls and falsely provide the name of a registered voter. “Nobody has suggested that it’s been tried here.

“I do know from experience that some people who don’t have ID who [go to vote in county elections] have been turned away, and given up on the whole provisional thing, gone home and not voted. And those people were residents,” said Ireland, a former Pitkin County commissioner.

Ireland said there is a national agenda to keep certain types of voters away from the polls. “We know, and it’s pretty well known, that people who are younger, have less money, and people who are older, are less likely to have a picture ID. They’re not driving, they’re not going to go and get a special government ID … it is part of a national agenda to exclude certain people from the polls.”

Ward Hauenstein, a member of the three-person Aspen Election Commission who worked on changes to the election rules, said the ID requirement was added simply to conform with state and county regulations.

Hauenstein said he knows of no “national agenda” to keep certain people from voting. “I’ve never heard of it until you mentioned it just now,” he told Ireland.

But Ireland said it’s hard enough to get people to go to the polls and vote without making new rules that could potentially turn them away.

Through the ordinance, several other changes to the city’s election code were enacted, based on recommendations by the commission. The council opted out of permanent mail-in absentee voting, in which ballots are mailed to voters who have requested them and then mailed back with the marked votes.

Instead, the city will mail postcards to all registered voters informing them about how they can go to the city clerk’s office and cast an absentee ballot during a certain time frame, or go to the polls to vote on election day.

New rules governing post-election audits and recounts also were included in the overall election ordinance, which passed 4-1, with Councilman Torre providing the nay vote.

Monday’s council meeting also included a lengthy discussion of “ballot transparency,” which would allow a post-election examination of ballots by any member of the public. Ireland vehemently objected to the concept – saying it could lead to “data mining” – and councilmembers did not express support for the idea. It was not included in the new ordinance.