Aspen Citizens for Democracy forms to challenge election date
An open letter to all Aspenites:
We live at a time when our democratic institutions are being challenged like never in our lives. Living here in paradise it can seem that these things happen “out there somewhere” and not here in our small-town Aspen bubble.
Such thinking is both wrong and dangerous. On one point in particular, we need a collective re-evaluation of how Aspen handles one of the most basic of democratic rights and duties: the individual right to vote.
For many years now our local elections have taken place on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in May, a time of the year when occupancy (i.e. presence) by locals is at its lowest. In fact, for 14 of the past 15 years, our local elections have taken place at the absolute lowest occupancy time of the year, a time when the full range of our local demographics is not fully represented.
The end of the ski season and entrance to offseason also marks the exit of many of us from the valley for vacation time, trips to warm places and a general stepping away from the busyness that defines the winter here.
Consequently, at election time, seasonal residents, the service workforce, younger and older people looking for fun and warmth, resident immigrants seeking to extend the work cycle — essentially parts of the entire spectrum of people who define Aspen’s population are, in some measure, missing for the vital decision-making time of elections.
We must change our election date to support the full participation of our entire community.
We, a diverse group of citizens — Aspen Citizens for Democracy — have made a serious effort to quantify and identify three potential target dates that would maximize participation by all groups in our population. With data provided by local columnist Wendle Whiting, we worked with an extensive 15-year data set on public sewer-flow data, total waste passing through the one pipe out of town being the most exact proxy for local occupancy possible.
We looked at three specific time frames:
The rate of occupancy on the election date;
Occupancy on the run-off election date;
Average occupancy in the six weeks prior to the election over a four-election cycle period.
The equation we came up with helped us determine dates that give the largest number of people the opportunity to vote. The results are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the lowest chance of having a truly representative vote and 100 the indicator of the highest level of possible participation.
Here’s what we found:
Our current election day scores a dismal 47.88 percent.
Early March gives a stronger 63.90 percent.
Early August gives a promising second highest score of 71.22 percent.
Early July tops all with a score of 75.07 percent.
Over the next months, we will work to gather qualitative feedback to match the rigor of our quantitative analysis and add more substance and credibility to our efforts. We want to hear from everyone: year-round residents, old, young, native born, residents of varied origins, second-home owners, and the heart of the workforce who get to live here. More representative voting provides an opportunity for ALL of us to be heard and to effect positive change, fuller participation in significant decision making and greater fairness in the outcomes of every decision.
Join us for our first listening session at Aspen Tap on May 21 at 6 p.m. and be on the lookout for online polls and other announcements regarding listening sessions, group pub gatherings, blast emails and more. You can contact us for clarifications, more information or to get involved at email@example.com.
Aspen Citizens for Democracy
Art Daily, Joe DiSalvo, Ann Mullins, Wendle Whiting, Skippy Mesirow, Duncan Clauss, Wendy Mitchell, Ashley Feddersen, Kalle Edwards, Hillary Seminick, Nicky Byrne, Ryan Koster, Damien Williamson and Andrew Sandler