Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
The biggest complaint I’ve heard about the May 5 election had nothing at all to do with the new instant runoff voting system since it was a simple yes or no on the Aspen Art Museum question. Letters to the editor and the word on the street was that the art museum question was tacked so obscurely at the bottom of the ballot that it had the potential to be missed entirely.
Of the 2,953 voters who showed up at the polls, 580 of them did not vote on the art museum question. Three otherwise reliable friends of mine said they didn’t even see the question and it was only after they left the building that they realized their omission.
Of course there are always some people who choose not to vote on an issue, so it is impossible to determine what the outcome would have been if the museum question had been more prominent. My three friends would all have voted no and I suspect that supporters of the museum would not have left the voting booth until they found the question, but that is speculation.
Alerted to the situation by irate “early” voters (we’re supposed to call it “absentee” ” why not call it what it is?), people showing up at the polls were reminded not to forget the museum question at the bottom.
Further investigation revealed that the museum lost in all precincts, and 351 of the early voters missed or ignored the question, suggesting that the later reminders got results.
I was devastated that Jack Johnson lost his bid for re-election and went to the website searching for clues. Watching the results on GrassRoots TV was a frustrating experience because you couldn’t read the numbers on the board as they came in by precinct and then, zippity zap, it was all over and we were shaking our heads (a LOT of my friends complained about this) wondering what the hell happened.
It was reassuring to be reminded once again that you can’t buy votes in Aspen. The museum spent $22 per yes vote, Adam Frisch $21 and Andrew Kole $30, while Derek Johnson spent $11, Torre $7 and Mick $14. Final numbers are not in, but that’s the gist of it. Marilyn Marks spent only part of her war chest and is not computable.
Overall, I think the instant runoff worked as well as anyone could have hoped and hardly anyone expected. The ballot itself needs some design work, absentee ballots need to get sent out sooner (several friends who were out of the country did not get them in time). But the results were verified and it certainly was fast.
Still, I wonder how it would have come out in a runoff among Jack, Michael, Torre and Derek after another month of campaigning and, watch out what you wish for, how it would have come out between Mick and Marilyn ” that we’ll never know.