Aspen Times editorial: Get off your apathy and get ready to vote, Aspen electorate
Even the most informed Aspen resident would be hard-pressed to know an election is happening, the results of which will chart the path of how this resort community moves forward for the next four years.
Yes, another election is upon us. It seems like just yesterday we were filling out our ballots for the November election, and some of us are still debating the results.
But now we must focus on the March 2 municipal election, where eight people are vying for two open seats on Aspen City Council and Mayor Torre is defending his two-year term against one challenger.
It’s been a quiet campaign thus far, partly due to the pandemic and local public health orders forbidding in-person interaction that is typical in stumping for political office.
Another reason is seven of the council candidates are newcomers to local politics, have never run for office, and therefore have never campaigned.
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When Aspen voters decided in a landslide election in fall 2018 to change the date of municipal elections from May to March, they hoped for more voter participation.
The Aspen Times endorsed the move, supporting the argument that there are more people in town during high season than in the offseason.
An unintended consequence, however, is the seemingly shorter campaign window, even though the time frame of picking up a nominating petition and submitting it to the city clerk didn’t change.
It’s just that it pushed the campaign season forward two months and therefore smack dab into the holiday season and beginning of the year. Now campaigning feels rushed.
Without a pandemic, or maybe with it, January, February and March are busy months for locals who are scrambling to make a buck while the chairlifts are spinning.
As a result, it’s difficult for candidates to have enough bandwidth to effectively get their messages out, on top of the challenges COVID-19 has brought.
At least when the election was in May, candidates and their constituents had more breathing room to get to know the issues during a slower time of the year.
We hope that the 2019 voter turnout was indicative of the desired result of moving the election. There was a controversial ballot measure that contributed to over a 50% turnout.
With voters deciding whether to allow developers to build 320,000 square feet of commercial development at the base of Aspen Mountain’s west side, along with two council members and a mayor, it was a high-turnout election for a city that struggles with voter participation.
In 2019, 3,243 out of 6,095 registered voters showed up to the polls, or 53% of the electorate.
Voter turnout in the 2017 city election was 38%, with 2,413 out of 6,400 voters showing up to the polls.
This year’s election turnout may be difficult to gauge because of the pandemic, which is creating all kinds of unprecedented phenomenons. But in theory, everyone is in town and should be more engaged in local issues because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The fact that eight people are running shoots down former Aspen mayor Steve Skadron’s theory that fewer qualified candidates would seek office because of campaigning during the high season.
We do agree with his 2018 prediction that candidates will not get as vetted by the citizenry as they would when things are slower in the offseason.
For this election, it lands squarely on voters to educate themselves on who these would-be public servants are and what their platforms are all about.
That’s especially true for the 2,409 Aspenites who voted in 2018 to change the election to March. It’s time to put your knowledge where your vote was and get educated.
We acknowledge there is voter and pandemic fatigue, and general apathy. But the people who get elected this go-around are going to lead this community through the rest of the pandemic and the fallout that ensues, both economically and physically. So it’s incumbent on us to get the most qualified people seated on council to weather the storm.
Voters can find information on candidates’ social media channels and websites, which can be found in the accompanying information box.
Additionally, The Aspen Times will publish questions and answers from the candidates the weeks of Feb. 8 and Feb. 15. The Times and the Aspen Daily News along with GrassRootsTV will co-host the traditional Squirm Night debate on the Zoom platform Feb. 18.
Also look for candidates’ guest columns explaining their platforms in The Times in the coming weeks. We’ve run a few already, and we’ll have our opinion and endorsement after our Squirm event.
The Aspen Chamber Resort Association plans to interview the candidates via Zoom and record those sessions to be posted to its website and social media channels.
Ballots will be mailed Feb. 8 and early voting begins Feb. 12. New this year is a ballot drop box in front of City Hall on Galena Street.
If you don’t exercise your democratic right, you have no right to complain, so look for your ballot in the mail, learn about the people who want to serve you and check the appropriate box before Election Day ends March 2.
ASPEN CITY COUNCIL
Phone: (970) 319-9865
Phone: (802) 752-7026
Facebook: Casey Endsley for Aspen City Council
Facebook: Mark Reece for Aspen City Council
Facebook: Jimbo Stockton for your Aspen City Council
Email: email@example.com (Email to set up a group or individual Zoom meeting)
Phone: (970) 948-3858
Phone: (970) 948-2023
Facebook: Tea Party of Aspen
To register to vote: http://www.pitkinvotes.com
Colorado Secretary of State: https://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/elections/vote/VoterHome.html
Details on city of Aspen election: https://www.cityofaspen.com/1335/2021-Election
Number of registered voters in Aspen:
2021 – 6,119
2019 – 6,095
2017 – 6,445
2015 – 6,238
2013 – 6,401
2011 – 5,955
Aspen voter turnout:
2019 – 3,243; 53%
2017 – 2,413; 37%
2015 – 2,542; 41%
2013 – 2,288; 36%
2011 – 1,794; 30%
The Aspen Times editorial board is comprised of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason and copy editor/columnist Sean Beckwith.
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