-Aspen's historic May 5, 2009 IRV election audited as single ballots- 5/5/09 Aspen CO held an instant runoff election (IRV) for mayor and 2 council members. Interpreted contents of each ballot, scanned by True Ballot, were publicly released. Open records requests for a CD of image scans were denied. Aspen has been sued to protect records from destruction and to allow inspection of the scanned ballot files. A Court of Appeals ruling holds that unidentifiable ballots are public records.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Response to Mike LaBonte

Mike LaBonte
I have posted and attempted to answer the questions you posed on this blog, although better answers might come from the Aspen city attorneys, (if they choose to answer).

You have dipped your toe into a nasty but tiny swarm of anonymous bloggers who have done little or nothing to discuss public policy and a lot to attempt to discredit, without any decent justification, good people in Aspen pursuing actual transparency of elections and election reform where needed. Jack Johnson has personally succeeded in initiating a smear campaign which seems to have inappropriately resulted in removal of the two citizen members of the Election Commission (the third being the Clerk, who remains as Chair) without any due process.  This is a dangerous result and a terrible precedent for any kind of citizen oversight for the future.

There is zero evidence for any harm that could have been done by these citizens, and their partisan connections are well understood and proper.  Their effort such as it was, had no partisan aspect, and was entirely to begin the process of finding out if the election commission had any real power to research an election or to  help improve election procedure. What we learned is that they have no power because  before wielding it, they will be ousted by the city council.  This recent removal (without notice, public comment or due process) was the most egregious damage done to election quality by elected officials in Aspen, to my knowledge.

The anonymous bloggers (wedeservebetter, animal safety, spock, klingon and others – these names change from time to time - ) use their anonymity to protect themselves from any blowback from their outrageous claims, slander, character assassination and the like which they have engaged in for many months on the Aspen Times site, ever since I met Marilyn Marks, if not before.   Because I have openly told the truth about Marks (and she continues to act responsibly) and we have supported each other’s efforts in election quality pursuit, they have also taken to attacking me and never fail to take an opportunity to discredit me or anyone else who seems to disagree with them, including of course, stupidly, you and Bev Harris.

It is not at all clear that you will want to discuss anything with these characters, including with Jack Johnson, who is in fact using his own name.  But Jack and the others have a right to express themselves even if they are terribly wrong and many times simply crude.  He was voted off the city council in the May 5 election and then spearheaded a tenacious smear campaign against two election commissioners who are effectively blameless and innocent of tangible harmful crime.  He is the one of several who has boldly stated that Marilyn Marks is a “sore loser” in the election (while he of course is not) and this explains her “nefarious” ulterior motive and what he imagined  as her “control” of the commission. Ex-council member  Jack Johnson- (not to be confused with Derek Johnson who replaced him) seems to feel an urge to wreak revenge against Marks for what he perceived as attacks during his tenure on city council.   However Marilyn has definitely acted with great responsibility since the election, as I well know from very close work with her.  Johnson is the one who has contributed no constructive part to the policy discussion since he was voted out (narrowly).  He was instrumental in Aspen’s conversion to IRV however, so his knowledge of history would be good, and useful,  if he is honest about it.  Since the election he has refused to talk to me about it.

Ironically and tragically, the criticisms these anonymous characters (plus one) deal out is not deserved by anyone other than themselves.

If you want to discuss the public policy matters, I can introduce you to some people who can and will discuss it responsibly ( but there are not that many in Colorado). That list would not include the anonymous bloggers on the Aspen Times- even if they might possibly include the Mayor and perhaps other significant civic leaders the identities of whom remain hidden under their anonymous blog names.

I appreciate your sharing your questions and opinions publicly in Aspen.  Your experience and questions are helpful. Sorry you  met with animosity, when you spoke up, but Marilyn Marks and I (and I assume Black Box Voting.org) will be in it until our cause for improved transparency prevails , however long that might take.

FYI I disagree that election officials should conduct elections with the help of the citizens.  It seems to me that it is essentially the citizens’ election, primarily run by temporary election judges sensibly chosen among all eligible citizens,  assisted or conducted (with respect) by accountable election officials, many of whom are re-elected themselves by the same election.  Surely the citizen role is foremost in the running of an election and must include many citizens acting in concert but independently.

The idea that machines will avoid the errors of humans is anathema to me in election policy.  This may sound odd coming from a guy who has spent his life as a computer systems  and software creator.  Vote interpretation cannot be done accurately by machines.  Accumulation of votes can be done very reliably by machines if they are properly tested, operated  and audited by human beings using non automated methods. The two roles (interpreting the voter intent, and accumulating the individual records of voter intent) are very different and must be treated separately.  TrueBallot actually recognizes this difference, as does the new law in CO that requires reporting the individual ballot interpretations to the public for IRV elections. The existence of this report motivates the very important separation of the interpretation from the accumulation.

I am quite familiar with True Ballot and their practices having interviewed at length two of the principals who in some respect  “conducted” the Aspen election. This I can share with you at your convenience.  Thank you for what you have already contributed to our dialogue.

Harvie Branscomb

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How nice to read an informed, reasoned and coherent letter on the subject of Aspen election reform. Thank you, Harvie!