Big changes needed to election system
September 22, 2009
Yes, Mick Ireland won the mayoral race. That was clear May 6. The transparency True Ballot touts in their Sept. 17 Aspen Times guest column allows anyone to test the tabulation. Clearly Mick had more votes, despite the software glitch, not announced until 23 days after the election.
Why the brouhaha?
It is not about the mayor’s race. It is about questions raised when transparency was increased, revealing evidence of flaws in processes requiring future remedies.
It is not just IRV. The most troublesome issues are not IRV-driven. Dumping IRV is not a panacea. We need fundamental improvements in simple procedures, from appropriate security for physical ballots to acceptable post-election audits, and accurate, timely reporting by the city.
Improvements required to conduct credible future elections are too numerous for a letter. However, the True Ballot advocate overlooks problems while supporting the city’s illogical positions. Why is the city’s election tabulation contractor attesting to the “independent verification” and “honesty” of the election? Will the city issue a correction acknowledging shortcomings and needed improvements?
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I and the rest of the election integrity community are awaiting that answer. An author of one of the national newsletters recently wrote me referencing our election as “so messed up even the Election Commission does not know what to do.”
Pumping up voter confidence may be the understandable goal of the True Ballot op-ed, but it reinforces the city’s tendency to disparage independent audit efforts, vilify any who have questions or complaints, question the motives of advocates for reforms, make peculiar excuses about why ballot images cannot be shared, and generally obstruct any citizen effort at election oversight. Most curious is the recent failure to support the Election Commission’s potential critical role in helping to resolve citizens’ complaints, and avoid litigation for the city.
Election commissions are created to have independent authority to ensure election process integrity. Their broad duties are stated in the Aspen charter, unlike any other city board or commission, other than council. Facing one of the most serious election issues imaginable – that voters’ choices were not secret, a violation of the Colorado Constitution, if true – council has frustrated the Election Commission’s efforts to address this sobering question. The city attorney has called their role “purely ceremonial,” despite their broad authority in the law. The concern over a possibly unconstitutional election leaves the government in jeopardy. Council should move quickly to support the Election Commission with the resources needed to find solutions to stave off litigation.
Enough of the illogical responses and stalling techniques. It’s time for the city leaders to be transparent and responsible by embracing a thorough review, a resolution of serious questions, and any reforms needed to protect future elections.