Marks to again view Pitkin County ballots
November 19, 2011
ASPEN – Elections activist Marilyn Marks will have an opportunity to inspect 100 ballots cast in the Nov. 1 Pitkin County election and obtain digital copies of 25 of them.
The cost of labor and copies will run Marks about $117, estimated Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill.
Marks last week made an open-records request to view 605 ballots cast in the recent election – those that were selected for a required, post-election audit.
According to a press release issued by Vos Caudill on Friday, Marks offered to reduce the scope of her request, given time constraints and the volume of work at the clerk’s office, and inspect just 100 of the 605 audited ballots. Twenty-five of the 100 ballots, of Marks’ choosing, will be scanned and provided to her on a disc, Vos Caudill said.
The clerk, who was out of town on Friday, said she anticipates selecting the ballots to be viewed on Monday and laying them out for Marks’ inspection on Tuesday.
This is the second time Marks will look at a sampling of county ballots; last month, she asked to see five to 10 ballots from the county’s November 2010 election and was provided 10 to inspect in the clerk’s office.
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Marks, the Aspen resident embroiled in a legal battle with the city of Aspen and three other Colorado counties over the right to view election ballots, said her latest request to Pitkin County is intended to facilitate the establishment of policies and procedures for complying with such requests. Being able to view ballots cast in an election is a matter of election transparency, according to Marks.
Jurisdictions that have not complied argue that releasing ballots could jeopardize the anonymity of the voting process, and Vos Caudill acknowledged the risk that releasing ballots for public scrutiny poses. The proliferation of election-related data that is public information could conceivably lead to the linking of a particular ballot with a specific individual, she conceded. Voter intimidation is among the potential consequences, Vos Caudill said.
Like Marks, Vos Caudill said she and other county clerks around the state want the state Legislature to address whether cast ballots are public record. In Marks’ lawsuit with the city of Aspen, the Court of Appeals has ruled in her favor. The city has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.
“The people of Colorado and clerks deserve clarity versus litigation that, at best, provides partial answers on an ad hoc basis,” Vos Caudill said in her press release.
Vos Caudill said her response to Marks’ latest request is based on the appellate court ruling and her consultation with the county attorney.
As with last month’s ballot inspection, the opening of a sealed canister containing the ballots, the selection of the ballots and Marks’ inspection of them will be videotaped, Vos Caudill said.
“It’s a new process and it’s prudent to be careful,” she said.
Vos Caudill said members of the public who have concerns or wish to discuss the release of ballots are welcome to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (970) 429-2710.