Council ponders runoff elections |

Council ponders runoff elections

John Colson

Aspen’s elected leaders decided more than a year ago that it might be a good idea to set up runoff elections for City Council seats.

That was before the current mayor won in one of the tightest electoral contests in recent memory. So the idea surfaced again Monday, courtesy of local columnist Sheldon Fingerman.

Fingerman told the council Monday that the current national election season had reminded him of the runoff concept, and asked, “What ever happened to that idea?”

Mayor Rachel Richards reminded him that the “old council,” the one in charge until May 1999, had voted several months before the last election to look into the idea. She added that she and City Manager Steve Barwick had been talking about it recently, and that it is on the council’s “to-do” list.

She said the council is working on formation of a city charter amendment commission to look into the matter.

The issue would only affect close elections in which the winner does not receive a clear, simple majority of the votes cast in that contest.

For example, when Mayor Rachel Richards won last year by only 14 votes, she did so by taking in only 32 percent of the votes cast in a four-way race.

For a short time, in fact, there was concern that the ballots in the mayoral race would have to be recounted, as required under state law when the top two candidates are within 10 percent of each other. But City Clerk Kathryn Koch quickly determined that 10 percent translated into 12 votes, and since Richards won by 14, a recount was not required.

If runoff elections were mandated by the city charter, Richards and her nearest competitor, former Pitkin County Commissioner Helen Klanderud, would have faced each other in a subsequent contest.

Richards said she hopes to get the charter amendment commission to work soon, and have a decision on the matter by next fall.

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