Marks accepts Aspen election result

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Marilyn Marks

ASPEN ” Mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks on Wednesday accepted defeat to her main opponent, incumbent Mick Ireland, and said she won’t contest the results of Tuesday’s election.

Marks’ appointed poll watcher, Jim Perry, Tuesday afternoon levied a challenge on all 801 absentee ballots that were cast by people who voted early in the city clerk’s office before the election.

Marks, who was only 134 votes shy of beating Ireland for the two-year term, said late Tuesday night that she wouldn’t concede the race until the ballots in question were dealt with. But after sleeping on that decision, Marks changed her mind.

“I certainly honor the voice of the people in this election,” she wrote in a prepared statement. “While the variety of challenges, which might be successfully asserted, could possibly change the outcome of the election, given the small … vote margin, I believe that our community’s time and energy would be better spent by uniting to address our near-term economic challenges and positive programs.”

Perry, who made the challenge before the polls closed, questioned the preservation of the ballots because the box in the clerk’s office was not locked. He also claimed that those who cast the ballots did not affirm themselves as qualified voters as required by state law.

City Attorney John Worcester said the challenge was untimely and therefore invalid because state statute requires that an individual voter must be challenged at the time the vote is cast. Worcester said Tuesday that the only remedy for Perry is to take his challenge to district court.

Perry said Wednesday that he won’t take the challenge any further.

“I’ve done what I can do,” he said. “I was calling attention to the fact that walk-in voting was sloppy. My challenge came after I was asking questions of the clerk and not liking her answers.”

City Clerk Kathryn Koch said the ballot box was locked and when it wasn’t, there always was someone in her office overseeing the voting. She did note that it wasn’t sealed like other ballot boxes in other precincts.

As far as the procedures are concerned, Koch and Worcester said state statute allows absentee voting in the clerk’s office and the way it was conducted was within the parameters of the law.

Koch said if the absentee walk-in ballots had continued to be challenged, it could have had a negative effect on the process, the outcome and people’s confidence in Aspen’s election system.

“That would disenfranchise 31 percent of the voters who wouldn’t have been able to defend themselves,” she said.

Perry said Marks’ run for office has given her political momentum with a large group of people in town and contesting the election results would hurt that.

Marks agreed.

“Election challenges are expensive and divisive, and delay the important work at hand,” she said, adding a citizen-appointed election commission can review unresolved issues with the instant runoff procedures and the issues raised by Perry.

Marks, a tireless critic of Ireland, ended her press release issued Wednesday with a nod to her nemesis and the other 12 people who ran for public office.

“I want to express my congratulations, especially to Mayor Ireland, and appreciation to all the candidates,” she wrote. “Our community owes them deep gratitude for their dedication, past service and willingness to serve. One of the many joys of this campaign has been to get to know the candidates better and appreciate what each one has brought to the dialogue.

“Thanks to the many supporters who helped deliver a message that indeed does send a mandate for change to City Hall for better governance, accountability and more transparency.”