Why the resistance? | AspenTimes.com

Why the resistance?

Dear Editor:

The ballot box is locked tight, and it appears that even a request by the Election Commission to perform a required audit would be rejected, if submitted. The Aspen Times reports that the city attorney says that the Election Commission cannot audit the election.

The city has now spent over a year and barrels of cash to fight transparency, rather than allow a routine election audit. Why?

Let’s hope that the new Election Commission, which has equal authority to the City Council for election matters, will formally require such a review, and not take “no” for an answer. (Of course the last EC was “disappeared” for mentioning the idea.) Pitkin County has election audits. Other Colorado cities have audits where ordinary citizens participate. Even Aspen’s IRV law adopted in March 2009 requires a prescribed audit under Secretary of State rules.

But Aspen’s ballot box was slammed shut and has been defended against the legally mandated audit of its contents for the past year. Are Aspen’s ballots so special that they cannot be reviewed like other cities’ ballots are?

The city claims to have done a 10 percent audit, after committing to no less than a 10 percent hand count. But no ballots were counted at all. That one audit step was merely meant to determine whether the scanner correctly recorded the ballot data on a small sample of ballots. No counting was done. Scanner test coverage was about 5 percent, not 10 percent as implied. Despite audit laws and clear commitments of adequate and extensive hand counts, and promises that every person “can count the election at home” on their computers, the high-risk IRV election, tabulated on illicit, uncertified software, is locked down and hidden from view.

The officials apparently have demanded that the ballots remain secreted away until they are “burned, shredded or buried.” Are officials considering a shamanic ritual to observe the colorful end to their election problems?

If the city attorney believes that audits are prohibited because the ballot box cannot be opened, then the City Council should pass an ordinance under the Home Rule Charter to order a post-election audit. If it’s possible in Longmont and Colorado Springs, it can surely be done in Aspen.

The new Election Commission can begin to rebuild confidence in Aspen’s election system by requiring such a review. There is no logical reason to stop an audit, even if it is a year overdue. Chances are, an audit would go smoothly. It is very likely that no material errors would be found. But why keep resisting it? Audits must become part of our routine citizen oversight, just as yearly financial audits are.

The anti-transparency battle’s cost is escalating rapidly with the engagement of outside counsel to represent the city in the DA’s investigation. Why the fight? Let’s hope the new Election Commission has the determination to find out, and to support election transparency and legal compliance fundamental “no-brainer” standards for our democratic small town.

Marilyn Marks