Marks granted access to Pitkin County ballots | AspenTimes.com

Marks granted access to Pitkin County ballots

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO, Colorado

Marilyn Marks

ASPEN – Marilyn Marks will be allowed Thursday to inspect five to 10 anonymous ballots cast in Pitkin County’s 2010 general election, Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill announced Monday.

Marks made the request to examine the ballots under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA). Vos Caudill said in a statement that she decided to grant access based on a recent decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals and an “election alert” issued Friday by the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

“After consulting with Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, the clerk and recorder made the determination to grant Ms. Marks’ CORA request to inspect five to ten voted ballots from the 2010 General Election,” the statement read.

The ballots will be selected from Precinct 6 ballots from Snowmass Village. Vos Caudill and another member of her staff will select ballots that do not contain write-in votes or any other potentially identifying marks. The staff members will handle the ballots for Marks to review. All activity involving the ballots will be video recorded.

By mutual agreement, the examination will take place Thursday. It is unclear what Marks hopes to accomplish by examining five to 10 ballots.

Marks scored a court victory when the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled in her favor in Marks v. Koch regarding her efforts to examine votes cast in an Aspen election. The appeals court ruled that ballots are public records subject to inspection under CORA unless they are marked in a way that would allow the voters to be identified.

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On Oct. 14, the secretary of state issued an election alert advising county clerks that the Department of State interprets the court’s decision to mean that county clerks must make voted ballots available for inspection. The election alert requires the clerks to review every ballot to determine if it contains write-in marks or other identifying marks. If so, it must be withheld from inspection.

Vos Caudill expressed concern in her statement about the extra handling and scrutiny of ballots.

“My foremost concern as Clerk and Recorder for Pitkin County is to continue our proud legacy of honest, fair and verifiable elections in a manner that is both transparent and ensures the anonymity of ballots cast by Pitkin County electors,” Vos Caudill wrote. “However, achieving these disparate but extremely important objectives is becoming increasingly difficult, and may be completely impractical due to the unique facts and circumstances of any given future election. Until there is clarity in law and rule, I will work to assure that each Pitkin County individual has the ability to exercise their right to vote with confidence in the anonymity of their ballots and the secrecy of their individual votes.”