Lum: The entrails of democracy |

Lum: The entrails of democracy

Su Lum

Last week I wrote that my job in the effort to dislodge the Base2 lodge was to compare the official city voting list with the names and addresses collected on the petitions. By this, I did not mean to imply that I alone was undertaking such a task — I figured that at least a half a dozen others were doing the same thing, including my friend Hilary.

As it turned out, Hilary had volunteered for the entire kit and caboodle, and I had been enlisted to help her with the job. Without doubt, a huge job.

This knowledge inspired me to step it up, and we have both been ripping through those garbled petitions as more and more keep pouring in.

In addition to the cross-checking, which we do to make sure that we ultimately have enough valid signatures, Hilary photographs all the petition pages and prints them out to use as worksheets. This duty exactly coincided with the death of Hilary’s printer from old age and the death of mine due to my knocking a glass of water into its innards.

Really, watching democracy in action, is enough to drive you to despair. Why can’t you print your names legibly? Why do you splash your name in such big letters that you obscure the modest signature above it?

Why do you sign a city petition if you don’t live in the city? If you live in the city, why aren’t you registered to vote? You’d be surprised at the number of prominent locals who know damned well they don’t live in the city but signed the petitions anyway. I could name names.

Ineligible signers aren’t doing anyone any favors by adding names that will ultimately have to be expunged, which takes twice as long as certifying valid signatures, so think before you sign anything.

It’s no wonder we need what we’re now calling “community organizers.” Ideally, there would be a slate of candidates or an issue to be voted on, voters would educate themselves by attending or watching broadcasts of some or all of the forums (we’re surely not lacking forums in Aspen) and then go to the polls and cast their ballots.

Not true. We know it’s not true nationally, but Aspen should be the exception to the rule, shouldn’t it? Hilary and I shouldn’t have to be checking your signatures and addresses on these petitions — you all should know who you are and where you live.

I don’t believe that Aspenites have reached the point where their votes can be bought, but more and more money is spent on local campaigns than was ever heard of and nationally accounts for the spending of billions to try to influence voting.

I’m a lowly accidental volunteer in this petition drive but it is an eye-opening experience, and I don’t much like the view or the implications.

On our election days, there are volunteers checking the list of registered voters against the list of everyone who has voted thus far (perfectly legal) and calling those who haven’t voted yet, urging them to get to the polls.

Should our election results hang on the votes of people who can’t remember that it’s Election Day? Should we be beating the bushes to get people to register to vote if they haven’t figured that out for themselves?

It’s discouraging to see the sausage-making of democracy — such a great system that seems to be going to rack and ruin in the past couple of decades. Maybe I — like the others I blame — just haven’t been paying attention.

I should take the entrepreneurial road and figure that if a lot of people will sign absolutely anything put before them, there’s a fortune to be made somehow.

Su Lum is a longtime local who has this bridge to sell you. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times. Reach her at