City responds to ballot issue
August 27, 2009
You recently published a letter from Mr. Paul Menter in which he wrote: “They [the city of Aspen] said all information would be made public. For some reason they changed their minds.” That statement regarding the spring election ballots needs clarification.
The city did state that all information would be made public, and the city has not changed its mind. As stated previously, the city has made available for public inspection records containing all the information that a person would need to determine how each and every ballot was tabulated. The city adopted an ordinance before the election that identified the information that would be made public after the election. That information has been released as promised.
Mr. Menter also wrote that “voting veracity requires the strings and ballot images be analyzed together.” The implication of this statement is that the city did not conduct such an analysis. In fact, the city did conduct a public audit of 10 percent of all the ballots – a sample size that is greater than anything required by state law. Absolutely no discrepancy was found between the actual ballots and the computer data used to tabulate votes.
Finally, Mr. Menter makes reference to the “anonymous” ballots, implying that their public release would not violate anyone’s right to a secret ballot. It is correct to refer to the ballots as being “anonymous,” but only as long as they remained locked up. State laws that prohibit the release of ballots seek to guarantee that no one can discern anyone else’s ballot after they have been cast. This preserves the anonymity of the ballots. The city clerk is legally bound to keep all election materials securely locked until they are destroyed or a court orders otherwise.
The only “catch” the city finds itself in is that it conducted the most transparent municipal election in Colorado in the last 100 years, and now finds itself being criticized for not violating state laws requiring that ballots be kept secret.
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community relations director, city of Aspen