Ireland foe to pay for recount in Aspen mayoral election
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Marilyn Marks – one of Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland’s most outspoken political foes in recent years – has called for a recount of ballots cast in last Tuesday’s mayoral election.
Computer-generated results show that Ireland won the race outright with 50.7 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff with second-place finisher Ruth Kruger, a commercial real estate broker. But Marks said the gap between the 900 votes Ireland received and the number he needed to avoid the runoff is so slight, a hand count is in order.
Marks, who unsuccessfully ran against Ireland in 2009, spoke up at Monday’s City Council meeting and explained why she is requesting the recount, which will be conducted Thursday. She will pay $1,000 for the effort, but the money would be refunded in the unlikely event that the outcome of the election is changed, and Ireland and Kruger are required to meet in a June 7 runoff.
In Marks’ assessment of the election results and the city’s rules governing elections, Ireland, who is seeking a third and final term, stands only two votes ahead of the number of votes that would automatically trigger a city-sponsored recount.
Though she donated money to the campaigns of Kruger and third-place finisher Andrew Kole – as well as the anti-Ireland political committee Sick of Mick – Marks said she is not requiring a recount for any other reason than to give voters the satisfaction of knowing that the results were accurate.
“I want to make it clear that I believe the election was conducted in such a quality way, that we should not expect to see a change in the results,” Marks said.
“That’s not what this is about,” she said. “This is about [ensuring] every single ballot was counted the way the voter intended it to be cast and counted.”
She acknowledged it was “unusual for a citizen to step up and say ‘let’s have a recount,’ when they don’t have any particular candidate that they are trying to advocate for.”
Ireland questioned Marks’ intentions. “Contributing to a campaign fund is not advocacy? That’s strange,” he said.
After some discussion among city officials about recount rules, Marks told Ireland, “Mick, no, this is not advocacy for any candidate at all. It really is advocacy for the voters, trying to make sure that the numbers are as accurate as they can be.”
“But you contributed $100 to Sick of Mick,” Ireland replied. “Is that some kind of advocacy, or am I missing something here? Or was that to help me? I don’t understand it at all.”
Of particular issue to Marks is the 19 computer-analyzed ballots that were blank. In other words, computers read those ballots and deduced that no votes were cast for mayor.
Marks said it was possible that the computers misread the ballots and the intentions of those who cast them.
“That could well be right,” she said. “It could be that there were 19 people who said ‘none of the above.’ But we ought to have a recount given how close this was.”
Marks continued, “In the event that someone used the wrong colored ink, or made a light mark, we ought to have looked through those 19 ballots just to see if there are [enough votes against Ireland] that would call for a runoff.”
Councilman Derek Johnson asked city attorney John Worcester whether the council is required to weigh in on the issue of the recount. Worcester and City Clerk Kathryn Koch both replied no; a recount can be requested by an “interested party” to the election as long as the city is not paying for it.
Koch said she calculated the cost of the recount at $1,000 since it will involve a full day’s services of city elections consultant Dwight Shellman III, who also is the county’s election manager, and four new election judges.
Marks battled Ireland in the 2009 mayoral race and contested the results of that election, which had been decided by an instant runoff voting computer-software system. When those votes were finally tabulated properly after a software error was discovered, Ireland’s margin of victory was actually higher than before, giving him 53.6 percent of the vote.
Aspen voters have since discarded the computerized instant runoff voting system, reverting to traditional runoff methods.
Marks, who since losing the 2009 election has pushed for changes in the city’s election code, even disputes the way the percentages of candidate support were calculated in the recent race.
For instance, the city has posted election results showing that Ireland received 900 votes of the 1,775 votes cast in the race, giving him 50.7 percent of the vote. By comparison, Kruger received 725 votes or 40.8 percent. Kole received 150 votes, or 8.5 percent.
Marks, meanwhile, writes in a letter to the editor published in The Aspen Times that Ireland only received 50.17 percent of the vote, preferring to add the 19 blank ballots to the number of votes cast, bringing the total to 1,794.
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