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Ireland wins Aspen mayoral race again

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Due to a computer software error, it turns out Mick Ireland won the Aspen mayoral seat on May 5 by a larger margin than originally reported.

City staff recently learned of the error in the tabulation of the final-round vote totals for mayor. However, the error had no effect on the outcome of the race, according to city officials.

Instead of Ireland defeating opponent Marilyn Marks by a vote of 1,273 to 1,140 (52.8 percent to 47.2 percent) as earlier reported, he actually won by a margin of 1,301 to 1,124 (53.6 percent to 46.4 percent).



In the mayor’s race, the threshold necessary to be sure of a victory was 1,273, which is 50 percent plus one of the 2,544 ballots cast. When Ireland reached 1,273 after LJ Erspamer was eliminated in the final round of counting, he was guaranteed to win.

The software stopped counting any additional votes for him. However, any ballots ranking Marks after Ireland were added to her final round totals.




Ireland ultimately received 28 votes beyond the threshold of 1,273. Sixteen of them had been counted for Marks, and 12 had been deemed “exhausted” because they did not rank Marks.

“City staff has been working to audit the instant runoff process, and the tabulation error was recently discovered by TrueBallot, the company hired by the city to perform the election,” said City Clerk Kathryn Koch. “The error arose because the voting software was originally written to support the ‘ranked choice’ form of elections used in Cambridge, Mass. Following Cambridge rules, the software prevented a candidate who had reached the winning threshold from receiving any more votes.”

Vote totals in all other rounds of the mayor’s instant runoff voting tally and in all rounds of the two council tallies were unchanged. The error did not occur in either of the council tallies.

“The fact that this error was detectable using election data we made available to the public validates our approach to election transparency and integrity,” Koch said.

Two days after the election, city officials and members of the public conducted an audit that involved randomly selecting 10 percent of the ballots and double-checking that the rankings corresponded to the electronic records.

The second step was to manually verify that every ranking was tallied correctly for mayor and council, which was conducted by TrueBallot.

Marks, who has been a critic of instant runoff voting well before it was implemented, said she thinks the testing of the system was inadequate leading up to the election.

“I am thrilled that there is some post-election auditing going on,” she said. “This demonstrated that it needed to be done.

“I hope that the results they’ve found will encourage them to do further work and tests.”

TrueBallot did the manual verification as part of their standard post-election services.

“We were able to audit and document this election more completely than any other public election that we have held,” Koch said, adding members of the public can view the data files that rank the candidates, as well as other election data public like TrueBallot’s 72-page spreadsheet that provides analysis of the results.

The election results are summarized on the city’s website at http://www.aspenpitkin.com/depts/38/.

The Aspen City Council has committed to reviewing instant runoff voting and its procedures at a public meeting to be scheduled sometime this summer.

Koch said she decided to make the error public by distributing a press release since the election data is available for public review. She added that to her knowledge, there are no other discrepancies with the instant runoff voting system or the election results.

“I’m confident we got the most correct answer,” she said.

csack@aspentimes.com

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