Why recount is necessary in Aspen mayor’s race
I have called for a manual recount of the mayor’s race given the close margins for an automatic recount and runoff. Here’s why.
There is little doubt that the 2011 election was the highest quality municipal election of any small or mid-size city in the state, thanks to the election staff, the election commissioners, consultant Dwight Shellman and citizen election judges. Council adopted new regulations in March creating more robust controls and quality processes than state law requires for municipal elections. The rule triggering an automatic recount was adopted to force a recount if the winner’s margin was less than one-half percent of total ballots cast in the election. Preliminary numbers now show that the mayor’s race is escaping an automatic recount by only three votes. In any election result that close, the public should be assured that the computer generated results accurately reflect the voters’ intent down to the last ballot.
One-thousand, seven-hundred and ninety-four ballots were cast in the election. Mayor Ireland won 900 of those in the preliminary totals, or 50.167 percent. To avoid an automatic recount, Ireland needed a 897 votes, which he achieved by a margin of three votes. That is just too close to leave without a full review of the mayor’s race ballots. (Ireland needs 889 votes to avoid a runoff, and 897 votes to avoid a mandatory recount to determine if the 889 vote run-off threshold was met. Yes, that’s confusing.)
Why manually recount when the ballots have been machine counted? It is highly unlikely that the results will change. The machines were well tested prior to the election. There is little reason to doubt their tabulated results. If there is any minor discrepancy (and there is likely not), it could be as a result of a voter using the wrong type of marker or voting with light marks. For example, there were 19 ballots in the mayor’s race which the machines read as “no vote.” Given the close margin to a required runoff, those ballots should be checked to be certain those ballots are indeed blank in the mayor’s race. The machines are great at counting, but not perfect at discerning voter intent. Also, one machine failed on Election Day, and had to be replaced, reminding us that they are, after all, fallible machines.
The recount process represents another process improvement opportunity to clarify how the new Aspen election code handles recounts and post-election audits. The process will hopefully also impress on the community that taking the extra effort to ensure the accuracy of the vote count is a healthy, democratic exercise, not a burden on anyone. The cost of the recount is paid by the interested party who requests the recount. The cost is expected to be approximately $1,000. I encourage interested citizens to help with the funding of this effort for election quality and excellent process.
Thanks again to the staff, judges and Election Commission for meeting the new standards of excellence in conducting last week’s election.
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