Still seeking election transparency
August 31, 2010
Kudos to Steve Skadron and Torre, who, on Aug. 24, did the heavy lifting of reversing the previous night’s adoption of flawed ballot language on IRV repeal. Steve heard Torre’s and citizens’ rationale as to why a streamlined question was the only practical choice, and made a motion to reconsider the 3-2 decision. Despite considerable resistance and downright hostility from Mayor Ireland, Steve stood firm, insisting that voters must have an understandable choice between IRV and traditional runoffs.
I was totally confused by the initial adoption of poorly drafted double-question ballot language, which, amid other confusion, permitted only votes “in favor” of the questions, although it required two “no” votes to retain IRV. Both Mitzi Rapkin of KAJX and Aaron Hedge of The Aspen Times have invested scores of hours researching the last election and IRV, but Aug. 23’s bewildering decision caused both to report it erroneously the next day.
Harvie Branscomb, election wonk and MIT M.E. brainiac, couldn’t quite puzzle through it. Neil Siegel, attorney and aeronautical engineer, struggled to understand the interplay of the ballot questions. In fact, the ballot question on IRV made the bizarre IRV math look simple! Mick was “disgusted” with those of us who stated that the two questions were too confusing, finally suggesting that those who did not understand the erroneously drafted conflicting questions may be considered “hopeless idiots” by others, insisting that Aspen voters are the “smartest voters in the world.” (Because they elected Mick?)
I’m in Mick’s “hopeless idiot” class for failing to understand how those ballot questions operated together. Perhaps I would have been joined by other “hopeless” voters in November. Dwayne seemed to think that somehow it would all average out OK, if the voters didn’t try to think about it too much. With last week’s 3-2 decision, thanks to Steve, Torre and Derek, voters have an understandable, clear ballot question.
Indeed, it would have been more democratic to permit more voting-method choices to be fully vetted. Helen Klanderud makes informed arguments for plurality elections. Harvie makes intelligent pitches for approval voting. But neither the council nor the Election Commission allowed the promised public study of these alternatives in time to craft understandable ballot language for such. Reminder – that is how we got into this IRV mess. No vetting by an Election Commission nor public discussion of pros and cons. Slap it on the ballot and vote.
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The heavy lifting now shifts to the Election Commission. The city claims that the IRV election was the “most transparent ever.” Certainly the 2009 election had areas of enhanced transparency, like projecting ballot images on screens during counting, the release of individual ballot data strings and post-election audit steps. If IRV is repealed, will we have “less transparent” elections? There is no reason to lose those attributes. Voters need assurance that both IRV and traditional runoff methods will have equivalent best practices in transparency and verifiability. That is presently quite unclear. Voters need more answers to make intelligent choices in November.