Reviewing election procedures
Dear Editor:A number of citizens have questioned how the city verifies the qualifications of persons running for elected office.The city has adopted a Home Rule Charter that addresses local elections and the requisite qualifications of persons desiring to run for office. Our charter states that “City elections shall be governed by the Colorado Municipal Election Laws.” Thus, any election procedure not specifically spelled out in the city charter is governed by the Municipal Election Code set forth in the state statutes.In accordance with the Colorado Election Code, a person desiring to become a candidate for local office must obtain the signature on a nominating petition of at least “25 registered electors residing within the city.” The city clerk then inspects the nominating petition for patent defects and verification of the signatures on the petition against the voter registration list. The candidate is then required to formally accept nomination to office by completing an “Acceptance of Nomination and Affirmation of Qualifications” form. This form requires the candidate to execute, under oath, a statement that the candidate meets the requisite qualifications for the office to which he or she is being nominated, including a statement of residency in the city of Aspen for a period of no less than one year. The nominating petition and the acceptance form become public records maintained by the city clerk.Section 31-10-305 of the state statutes is important to understand. It states, in relevant part, that “all petitions of nomination and affidavits … are valid unless objection thereto is duly made in writing within three days after the filing of the same.” In other words, anyone may file an objection to the form or substance of the nominating petition or affidavit within three days, but if no objection is filed, they are presumed to be valid. If an objection is filed, the city clerk is required to make a determination of validity with 48 hours to ensure that the election process is not unreasonably delayed. The clerk’s decision is subject to judicial review by the district court in a special summary proceeding.As the reader will appreciate from the above, the City Council does not have any role in this process. Indeed, after the time period for filing objections to nominating petitions and affidavits has passed, nominations of candidates are presumed to be valid. However, the city charter does state that “the city council shall be the judge of election and qualifications of its own members.” The City Council has jurisdiction to determine the qualifications of a person seeking to be seated on the council, after his or her election, but not before. This makes logical sense as the City Council should not be allowed to be involved in the political process before a person is actually elected to office.Recent developments during this election cycle make it clear that the City Council should review the city’s current election procedures. I am confident that council will have that discussion in the near future.Helen Kalin KlanderudMayorCity of Aspen
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