Voter group applauds ballot question
An open letter to all Aspenites:
Aspen, thank you. We did it! Thanks to a successful petition campaign, a question asking to move Aspen’s election date from May to March will appear on the ballot in November.
We are grateful for all those who aided in this effort. Thank you to petition leaders Wendle Whiting, Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, Art Daily, Ashley Feddersen and Skippy Mesirow. Thank you to our supporters — old, young, left, right, business owners and workers. Thank you to the 89.1 percent of the 442 registered Aspen voters who agreed in a poll that changing the election day is a good idea, and to those who gave us guidance by a 2-1 margin to select March as the final choice of a new election day.
At a time when political division is rife, and democratic norms and principles are challenged, we are proud to live in a community willing to stand up for every citizen’s right to vote. Holding local elections in May, a time of the year when the fewest voters are in town, accomplishes the opposite of that. Changing the date to the first Tuesday in March better ensures the participation of our entire community.
Though support for moving the date has been overwhelming, it is not unanimous, and it’s important to address our detractors. A vocal opponent recently said to The Aspen Times that he is “concerned that seasonal workers could sway a vote.”
Essentially, he is arguing there are people who live in Aspen, work in Aspen, meet every legal requirement of an Aspen voter, including residency, who should purposely be kept from voting in the election by holding it in May when they are not present. But it’s not just seasonal workers who are negatively affected by the May election date. It’s also life-long residents who travel in the offseason. The seasonal-worker argument is a classic straw man.
The 2010 U.S. Census shows 6,658 residents in Aspen; 4,628 are registered to vote. In the 2007 mayoral race, 2,136 votes were cast; in the 2013 runoff 1,753 voters cast ballots. The race for council in 2015 garnered only 1,989. These numbers show that most Aspen residents are not engaged with their representatives.
Moving the voting date to March is about enfranchising citizens who are currently disenfranchised. That’s it, nothing more. With greater voter turnout, we can realize a better, fuller democracy, rebuild trust in our system through shared involvement, and set an example for the rest of the country. Voter suppression, whether intentional or accidental, is not something any community should be proud of, least of all the birthplace of the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Idea.
Aspen Citizens for Democracy has a long-term goal of seeing Aspen become the first city in America with 100 percent voter turnout. Moving the voting date is no silver bullet, but it’s a good start.
Vote “Yes” to change the voting date in November and be part of building a stronger democracy.
Aspen Citizens for Democracy
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I was disturbed by Aspen High School Principal Sarah Strassburger’s April 11 guest commentary: “State board of education representative off mark on Aspen High Survey.”