Boiling down the ballots
November 15, 2011
I wanted to offer an explanation for my support of the city’s request of the Colorado Supreme Court to review the ongoing Marks v. Koch case, which is probably best-known as Marilyn Marks’ request to review the ballots or images of ballots (TIFF files) from the 2009 IRV election in Aspen.
To catch those people up who are smart enough not to follow this issue blow by blow but are interested in the outcome and policy in question, I will give you my take. It started with Marks’ request, under the Colorado Open Records Act, to inspect all ballot images from the 2009 Aspen election. The request was made of the city clerk’s office as the records keeper. The clerk’s office denied the request, citing a state statute which prohibits releasing ballots. Ms. Marks then took the issue to district court for a ruling. The district court held that the clerk was correct to not release the ballots.
Ms. Marks then took the case to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled to overturn, and allow the release of the digital images (TIFF files). The city is filing a petition for writ of certiorari, which means we want the Colorado Supreme Court to review the case and provide clarity on the legislative intent between protecting a voter’s ballot and releasing that information. The Supreme Court will decide if it wants to accept our petition or not.
I think this case and the questions it brings up rise to the importance of being considered by the Colorado Supreme Court. I think that the city’s interpretation of the current law is correct. I also feel that the pendulum on this issue is in swing, where most voters have long been in the camp for ballot secrecy, now some voters want to be assured of an audit as well as access to all ballots cast. I am for both keeping my cast ballot private and assurances of accurate tabulation.
Currently, we have several layers of citizen oversight and auditing that have as recently as this year proved to be accurate and affirmable. This case is an effort to have ballots or images of ballots released to any entity seeking to view them. The ballots we have been using have several candidate and issue questions on one ballot, lending them some level of “decipherability.” I support a multiple-ballot system where questions are separated if ballot release is where the voters want to go. We should start to put our energy towards making the improvements necessary for our next elections.
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Aspen City Council