Marks wants to see latest Pitkin County ballots | AspenTimes.com

Marks wants to see latest Pitkin County ballots

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Elections activist Marilyn Marks has asked to view hundreds of ballots cast in Pitkin County’s Nov. 1 election in her ongoing push for what she calls election transparency.

County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill said Monday that she was reviewing the request and expected to announce her decision Tuesday. Marks has filed a request to view the 605 ballots that the clerk’s office hand counted as part of a state-mandated, post-election audit. All Colorado counties perform such audits.

The audit, Vos Caudill said, revealed no irregularities.

Last month, the clerk produced 10 ballots from the county’s 2010 election for Marks’ inspection, after she submitted an open records request to see five to 10 ballots.

Marks, reached by phone Monday afternoon in Denver, said the request to the county was made to further her statewide push to make ballots available for public inspection, rather than to call into question the county’s performance in conducting an election or to gain ammunition in her fight to view city of Aspen ballots.

“My reason for doing it is to begin to establish now some of the policies and procedures to do it,” she said, predicting the potential for controversy and requests to view ballots across the state in 2012, a presidential election year.

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“This needs to be worked out now rather than in the heat of the battle in a presidential election,” she said.

Marks, who filed suit against the city of Aspen after it denied her request to view ballot images from the 2009 mayoral election, said she is also involved in similar litigation in three other counties around the state and has sued the Colorado secretary of state for refusing to review election-related complaints in Saguache County.

Marks was an Aspen mayoral candidate in 2009, losing to Mick Ireland, but she has often said it is not her intent to overturn the results of that election through inspection of the ballots.

The city’s refusal to make the ballots available for public scrutiny was upheld by 9th District Court Judge James Boyd last year, but in September, the state Court of Appeals overruled his decision. The city has appealed the appellate court’s ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court, but that doesn’t mean the high court will consider the appeal.

If the county complies with Marks’ latest request, it will have no bearing on the city’s case, according to John Worcester, city attorney.

The city is governed by the state’s municipal election code, while the county is not, he said.

In addition, the city contends that release of the ballots could cause harm to the public by jeopardizing the sanctity of the secret ballot, Worcester said. It is up to the custodian of the ballots – City Clerk Kathryn Koch in the city’s case – to make that call, he said.

Vos Caudill might not feel that the release of ballots poses harm to the public interest, Worcester said.

Marks, meanwhile, predicted the issue will wind up before the state Legislature. She said she met Monday with the Colorado Press Association regarding her push, as well as with legislative lobbyists.

janet@aspentimes.com