Democracy in action or inaction?
August 20, 2007
ASPEN The devil is in the details when it comes to democracy in Aspen.City Council members on Monday spent more than an hour racking their brains on whether to let voters decide this fall if they want to change the way they elect people into office.The change would come in the form of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), also known as ranked-choice voting. It would eliminate runoff elections because voters would pick their second-choice candidate in the May election. But the system is confusing to some council members, who were leery to bring the changes to voters this fall without fully understanding the concept themselves.Rob Ritchie, head of FairVote, an organization that lobbies for better voting practices, attempted to explain different options on Monday to the council but was somewhat unsuccessful.The idea would be to change the current law so that City Council candidates and the mayor must win 50 percent of the majority, plus one. Voters would select their first choice and once that candidate has been established as the winner, a second ballot count would ensue without the first winner to establish the second highest vote-getter.Sound confusing? That’s what the City Council is worried about. Some council members favored at least asking voters if they conceptually agree with changing to an IRV system and then hammering out the details later.But others think it would confuse voters and they’ll ultimately shoot down a new ordinance, the language of which needs to be approved by the council at its Aug. 27 meeting in order to make the Sept. 7 deadline to place it on the November ballot.”I think voters are going to turn it down because they are confused,” Mayor Mick Ireland said. “You are just asking to get beat.”City Councilman Steve Skadron agreed.”I have some reservations to move forward with something that isn’t crystal clear,” he said.City Councilman Dwayne Romero said he thinks now is the time to act on how Aspen elections are handled. He added that runoff elections are a waste of people’s time and energy, especially because a new council is delayed in being sworn in and is prevented from moving forward with the public’s business.”I think we are at a place where can bring this to the voters, and without a doubt, we are over thinking this,” he said.Councilman Jack Johnson, who has researched IRV with City Clerk Kathryn Koch for the past two years, is more than ready to proceed.”It’s frustrating to me because we can’t get off the mark,” he said. “It seems to me to be quite simple.”The City Council will officially vote on the issue next Monday at its regular meeting. Council members ask that the public weigh in on the issue so they know what direction in which to proceed.