Runoff elections to go on fall ballot |

Runoff elections to go on fall ballot

Janet Urquhart

Aspen voters will decide in November whether or not the mayor and City Council members will need a clear majority at the polls to win their seats.

The council agreed unanimously Monday to put the issue of runoff elections before voters. Instituting runoff elections requires an amendment to the city’s home rule charter – the proposed change will be on the fall ballot.

The proposal would require the mayor and council members to be elected by at least 50 percent of the vote, plus one vote.

Settling on the 50 percent standard, however, took some doing. The council engaged in a lengthy debate over whether what was fair for the mayor was fair for the council.

No one argued against requiring the mayor to be elected by a simple majority, but with multiple candidates often running for two at-large council seats, winning 50 percent of the vote on the first go-around is more difficult.

It will mean a runoff for at least one council seat in every election, argued Councilman Tony Hershey, who supported election of council members with 40 percent of the vote.

“Why should the standard be less for council?” countered Councilman Terry Paulson. “We all have one vote.”

Councilman Tom McCabe suggested a compromise – 45 percent of the vote for both council seats and the mayor, but his proposal went nowhere.

“If you don’t have a clear idea of how to change the charter, maybe you shouldn’t,” city attorney John Worcester suggested.

As proposed, the top two vote-getters for mayor will engage in a runoff election if no candidate receives a clear majority.

In council races, if no candidate receives a majority, the four top vote-getters will engage in a runoff and two who receive the most votes will win. If one council candidate receives a majority in the initial election, then the next two highest vote-getters will face each other for the other seat.

In the case of a tie in the runoff, the candidates draw straws, according to state law, said City Clerk Kathryn Koch.

Two council seats come up in each election, held every other year in May. Council members serve for four years; the mayor serves a two-year term.

A runoff, if necessary, would take place on the first Tuesday in June.

The call for a runoff in city elections resurfaced after the May 1999 elections, when Mayor Rachel Richards was elected in a four-way race by just 14 votes and 32 percent of the votes cast.

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