Basalt woman investigates surge of election day votes
The Aspen Times
A Basalt woman is examining a list of voters in the town’s municipal election because she wants to see if there were any “shenanigans,” particularly on the busy last day of voting on Tuesday.
Mary Kenyon said she was curious about the 187 voters who cast ballots Tuesday because she was in Town Hall on business twice that day and saw a lot of voters she didn’t recognize.
“There were people there that I’ve never seen, and I’ve been here since 2001,” Kenyon said. “I’m not suggesting there was anything wrong, but I would like to see who are those 187 voters.”
Basalt had a mail-ballot-only election for mayor and three council seats. Ballots were mailed out March 14. They had to be returned by mail or in person to Town Hall by 7 p.m. Tuesday. Town Clerk Pam Schilling said 1,100 voters cast ballots, a high number for an April municipal election. She said 187 turned in ballots Tuesday.
Kenyon said many people she knew voted immediately. She found it odd that so many people waited until the last day.
Kenyon noted her wonderment on the Basalt community page on Facebook on Wednesday night.
“There were so many new faces turning in ballots yesterday … just wonder who those last 150 (sic) voters were … hmmm … may have to find out!” she wrote.
Separate request withdrawn
Kenyon emailed a request to Schilling for the names and addresses of the voters who cast ballots Tuesday. Stacey Craft of Basalt made a similar request, according to Schilling.
Kenyon openly supported Rick Stevens in the Basalt mayor race. He was defeated by only 27 votes by incumbent Jacque Whitsitt in a 560 to 533 tally.
Craft was a primary organizer and spokeswoman for OneBasalt, which claimed to be a neutral group formed to provide information to voters during the campaign. Several organizers of OneBasalt supported Stevens’ campaign.
Craft didn’t respond to an email from The Aspen Times seeking comment on her interest in the election day voters’ names and addresses. She withdrew her request later Thursday after she learned Kenyon made a similar request, Schilling said.
Schilling said the ballots submitted on election day weren’t dated in the poll book, an official record of the election, but the election judges placed a check by the names of voters who cast ballots that day. It was possible to go through the poll book and extrapolate who voted on the final day, Schilling said.
She started doing that work Thursday, but later in the day she and Kenyon agreed Schilling would provide copies of the poll book pages and Kenyon could use the information however she wanted.
Stevens: No skin in game
Kenyon said she didn’t coordinate her effort to learn more about the voters with anyone else. She said she didn’t discuss her plan with Stevens.
Stevens said his “eyes opened” when he saw that 187 people voted on election day, but he didn’t have anything to do with the investigation of voters launched by Kenyon and Craft.
“They can do whatever they want,” he said. “I don’t have any skin in this game anymore, so it doesn’t matter.”
On the Basalt community page Wednesday, Stevens wrote that he wouldn’t serve as mayor even if circumstances changed the election outcome. Schilling said 18 ballots were mailed overseas and could still be counted. They must be postmarked on or before April 5 to be counted.
“I was going to disengage but no more — I do not want the mayor role no matter how many votes still get cast or challenged/refuted,” Stevens wrote.
He said Thursday that he could play a different, more active role in Basalt’s deliberations if he isn’t in elected office.
Kenyon said she planned to do a random check of the 187 voters from election day. She will physically investigate if addresses are legitimate. She noted she could use Eagle County assessor records to check property ownership. It wasn’t clear how she could verify if a renter lived at the property.
She said she wants to make sure the voters legitimately lived where they said they did.
“Let’s look at them to see if there was any shenanigans going on,” Kenyon said.
If she finds evidence of voter fraud, she would explore if that invalidates the election results, she said.
Kenyon noted that there is no way of knowing how the people who voted on election day cast their ballots. However, she noted that Whitsitt and her team mounted a get-out-the-vote effort that day.
“Rick was all about relationships and Jacque was asking people to turn in their ballots,” Kenyon said.
Whitsitt ‘moving on’ from election
Whitsitt used voter-registration records to track voting. Her treasurer checked in with Schilling everyday to get the names of voters who turned in a ballot that day. Whitsitt’s team had a master list of voters likely to support her based on stated support from previous elections and positions on the Pan and Fork land-use controversy. When people voted, they were crossed off the list. If they hadn’t voted, volunteers would call or visit their residences. They continued their efforts on election day.
Whitsitt said Thursday that she wasn’t surprised that 187 people cast their ballots Tuesday despite having the opportunity to turn in their ballots earlier.
“We knew there was going to be a surge of voting on election day because there were so many ballots out,” she said.
Whitsitt also said she had “full and complete trust” in Schilling and the veteran crew of election judges that oversaw the vote.
“I believe they did their jobs as they always have,” she said.
She declined to comment on the voter investigation by Kenyon because she said the election is over.
“I really look forward to moving on,” she said.
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