-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.

Search this and related blogs

Sunday, March 28, 2010

to aspenpost.net blogger/editor Michael Conniff (a.k.a. the Con-Man)

to aspenpost.net blogger/editor Michael Conniff (a.k.a. the Con-Man)

Michael your penchant for going negative astounds and disappoints me. I left town the day after getting you and Marilyn together for a pleasant and amiable chat and before I managed to return from a very important meeting on election auditing and citizen activism in DC, you are fighting her again. Did she start this recent fight? I don't think so. All she did is respond to your initial faint praise which she and I both recognized as the most you could possibly do to be nice to her. And we were both thankful for your effort.

I appreciate that you appreciate her work on election reform in which you say she is helping me. I need all the help I can get but Marilyn is so well suited to pursuing election reforms I can only say I am providing her some minor help with my full time volunteer effort. There was no lack of transparency of the election commission. NONE. ZIP. NADA. In fact there was plenty of transparency- thousands of pages of it. I do not believe you read all of THOSE pages. (continued)

For example, did you read the one from Elizabeth Milias from early on election day talking about the problems with the election she had already seen, noting that she was not planning to certify the election? From my perspective that one is a real eye-brow raiser. I tried to get that one published in either newspaper but no go. However from this massive set of emails handed to him, Jack Johnson did literally cherry pick and annotate in handwriting his preferred set of "smoking gun" emails about 80 of them. He published his own selected and numbered set. Those he did not select were NOT published. I think this is what you are thinking of as the "public record" of the Election Commission, which it is not. It is a specific portion of the record selected for a strategic purpose, to embarrass Marks, Milias and Bryan and to leave Kathryn Koch unscathed.

Johnson and others (several of them anonymous bloggers on the Aspen Times) then simply repeatedly refer to this selected record saying go look for yourself which sounds like a decisive argument but it isn't even an argument. They all refuse to meet with their accused, in general refuse to listen, and metronomically echo a set of Rove-ian talking points: sore loser, corruption, etc etc. This process had ZERO due process, and in fact there was quite a bit of UNDUE process.

That set of emails is unquestionably cherry picked. Michael you think you have read ALL of the emails? I don't think so. The story of the 2009 election commission is a much bigger failure in Aspen than anything in the original election process. It is true that the 2009 election commission failed. But it wasn't the fault of the two citizen members, or Marilyn Marks.

It is only because you have not taken the time to listen that you could still believe this cock and bull story which has been going around, and now is going around again on your blog. I am too close to the facts on that topic to be in any significant way misled.

I have diverted much of my attention to the issue of how this citizen oversight mechanism could be so much hurt and likely for an extended period of years into the future by an ex-councilman. Likely it was with a lot of undeserved inside help. I have started alerting some civil rights organizations to take a close look at this too. When citizen oversight starts to be chilled by heavy handed treatment, such as that dealt out to Milias and Bryan, a lot of people start to be concerned, and rightly so. Just, it seems, not in Aspen itself.

Show me the evidence that Marilyn Marks deserves the epithets you toss at her here- always has to be right, transparency doesn't apply to her. She isn't a city government, you know?

Lastly let me say that you made the same claim to her in person last week that she is the worst politician you have ever seen. Do remember her response? This comment of yours here sure doesn't reflect it. She laughed and said she has never claimed to be a good politician. She appeared to me to be quite pleased to be called a bad one.

So your comment here, opinion though it is, reflects some real problems with your perception and your thinking. Very sad to see that, just when I thought we were starting to communicate.

(opinion by) Harvie Branscomb, disappointed

Michael Conniff on Huffington Post
You may be shocked and even appalled to hear this--and I am shocked myself--but I am actually going to defend failed Aspen Mayoral wannabe Marilyn Marks.

Let me explain before you fall off your chair. As people round about the roundabout know, my differences with Marilyn Marks have been dark and deep--and deeply personal at times. Though she actually has a charming side, she is pretty much impossible to deal with at all times politically. I think her role in both the elimination of Factual Aspen Investigative Reporting (FAIR) and the Election Commission fiasco are inexplicable and inexcusable. I think taking the City of Aspen to court over the Instant Run-Off Election was a huge and costly mistake.

Come to think of it, I can't think of anything she's done that I would endorse other than her fight over Burlingame affordable housing and the nonsensical Article 30--and both of those were long ago.
That said, I still don't think the City of Aspen should sue Marilyn Marks to regain legal costs, a bill likely to come to tens of thousands of dollars.

Thanks to the election watchdog Harvie Branscombe, one of her supporters and an expert in the field, I have been convinced that candidates have a right to contest elections for whatever reason, and that to create an even greater financial barrier to election transparency is a precedent that will hurt us all in the end..

Now I understand why the Aspen City Council gave this idea the green light. Marilyn Marks is a royal and unapologetic pain in the ass who wastes buckets of money making everyone's life miserable. But the larger principle here is what counts. If anyone contesting an election in Aspen knows that losing comes with a stiff penalty then we all lose.

Let's not forget the City of Aspen has won this case, at least pre-appeal. Marilyn Marks may be a sore loser, but it's even worse to be a sore winner, even when you're right.

Comments taken from the AspenPost.net blog:

originally posted here: http://www.aspenpost.net/2010/03/24/con-games-dont-make-marilyn-pay/

  • 1. Marilyn Marks  |  March 24th, 2010 at 7:37 am
    Well, Michael,
    It’s a crumb, but I’ll take it!
    And maybe ask for a few more crumbs, one at a time.
    In my very short list of things you would “endorse” that I’ve done---let me ask you about one I feel had the most long term contribution.
    Until there was a considerable and difficult show down, Council work sessions were not recorded, and minutes were not even taken.
    As you well remember, it took a serious battle to get to the place that we have a video and audio record of almost all the CC sessions.
    The City tried to punish me then for recording a public meeting when they didn’t want to. Just as they are trying to punish me now.
    Recording all meetings is something that I think that is the most important thing I helped accomplish.
    For example, as a result we have Mick and the City attorneys and the City Clerk on record many times saying, “anyone can test the election for themselves. They can see every ballot, and test the tabulation on their home computers with open source software.” “Every ballot will be shown. There will be no mystery. “ “We will have certified software.” “We will have a hand count to audit the election.”
    Now, I’m only asking that they honor those promises.
    And I’m sure those recordings come in handy for the press, and others who have business with the city. They will be good records for the next Burlingame disaster, which appears to be on the way.
    (remember we had no meaningful records last time around.)
    As a member of the press, certainly supportive of transparency and good record keeping in public, would you consider giving me a crumb for that one?
    Then we’ll move on to the merits of this case on which we disagree.

  • 2. Mick Ireland  |  March 25th, 2010 at 4:22 am
    [From Facebook]
    How much money do we have to waste on her frivolus lawsuits?? Dismissed as groundless.

  • 3. Michael Conniff  |  March 25th, 2010 at 6:37 am
    With all due respect, Mr. Mayor, if the subject is wasting taxpayers money, as you seem to imply, then it's no stretch to go to the $18 million the city paid for the lumber yard, presumably for affordable housing which the City has no money to build. Let's be nice and say you only overspent by $6 million. That makes you, at a minimum, the $6 million man when it comes to waste.

  • 4. Marilyn Marks  |  March 25th, 2010 at 4:01 pm
    Mick can try to claim “frivolous” and “wasteful” all he wants. That is not going to fly with any court or anyone who cares about transparent elections or good public policy.
    This is important public policy. Even our county elections have far more transparency----most particularly now that the court’s ruling shuts down audits, and apparently recounts and other post election controls.
    There is no reason that ballots should be locked away from post-election audits and transparency when county, state and federal election ballots require them.
    The same City ballot question, depending on whether it is asked in November (city/county election), or May (city election) gets handled, tested, audited, stored and preserved very differently. The County is following far more progressive modern rules, allowing more transparency and citizen oversight.
    To be fair, the City adopted more progressive rules last March, but just refused to follow them.
    County elections require audit, City elections prohibit them. Strange huh?
    And the City wants to maintain that lack of transparency.
    It really takes a lot of audacity for the city to claim “waste” when they fought this simple request at every turn. The fees should have been non-existent. They fought and re-fought every step.
    Why didn’t they just follow through with their promises of “every person can see every ballot for themselves. Every tally can be tested, every ballot seen?”
    If they were unsure, they could have gone to the court without cost and requested permission to carry through with that promise. Instead, they worked to shut down the citizen oversight with a very heavy hand.

  • 5. Marilyn Marks  |  March 25th, 2010 at 4:05 pm
    To clarify---I said:
    "Even our county elections have far more transparency----most particularly now that the court’s ruling shuts down audits, and apparently recounts and other post election controls."
    The court's ruling only affects municipalities---not counties.
    Audits are still required and allowed in counties.

  • 6. Marilyn Marks  |  March 25th, 2010 at 11:02 pm
    Okay, Michael, ---I guess I got no crumb out of you for the work on getting recordings of 75% of Council sessions which were going with no public record (even minutes.)
    But I know, you are a tough audience.
    Eventually, I know you’ll toss at least some stale crumbs my way for the election work, once the City Hall smoke clears.
    You imply twice in the posting above that I am contesting the election. And you have said it on your show many times.
    But, I think you know far better, that I am contesting only one thing----the withholding of documents which are subject to freedom of information/sunshine laws.
    A freedom of information request is WAY different than contesting an election. There were easy, cheaper , far faster routes to contest the election. Why wouldn’t I have taken one of those more expedient routes, if that were my goal? Why let Mick sit in office a year, if I wanted to overturn the election?
    Why not take Zimet’s ready-made claim to court with a constitutional claim, which is not time-barred.
    My case will not be resolved until after the next election. If I were trying to “win” the May 2009 election in the courts, wouldn’t that be kind of stupid, since we will have another election before my case is determined?
    Consider the likely outcome. Eventually, a court will require Aspen to turn over the tiff files. When they do, I will have “won” the case. Will you decree that I have “won” an “election contest?”
    No, of course not. You and I both will say I won the right to look at a lot of boring files, which might not even be such great copies. I’m fighting for principle, not for an election result.
    The city cannot tolerate that nor stand up to the many promises they made. They even wrote laws promising this transparency. But they failed to execute.
    Therefore they need to attack me personally and claim that I am trying to overturn the election and other such non-sense to deflect from their failures.
    They will not tolerate being confronted with such failures, ---so they spew a fog of attack language and misrepresentations to make the problem “me” rather than the system.
    But the system is so fragile and so unsupportable that it will eventually crumble, when the people realize that city hall unhooked all the controls before they ran the last election.
    My goal is to convince the voters that we must take out elections back. And whether we use IRV or something else, we must reattach the controls. We must take responsibility as citizens for our elections.
    My critics, particularly Danforth, claim I should do something important. Something that makes a difference---not elections. In Aspen, I see no greater impact I can have than to bring transparency and citizen oversight back to our city elections. If we cannot have confidence in the election process, we cannot have confidence in the results it produces. We will not have confidence that the leadership has the support of the citizens. Voters will allow apathy to take over, and not even vote.
    Michael, can we agree that either 1) I’m not contesting the election , or 2) you think I’m stupid enough to take the most convoluted expensive slowest route possible to an election contest?
    You could toss me that crumb…..

Further comment from editor of Aspen Post blog, Michael Conniff (a.k.a. conman)
[I’m fighting for principle, not for an election result.]
I repeat my assertion that you are the worst politician I've ever known. Go on and be a gadfly if you like, but please don't run for office again as a favor to everyone. I'm amazed that you take my support, call in a "crumb," and proceed to complain, complain, complain. You are not brain-dead so you must be tone-deaf.
I applaud the expanded role you've taken on with Harvie Branscombe for election reform, but I am completely amazed that you continue to insist Jack Johnson "cherry-picked" the Election Commission emails. I've read dozens upon dozens of them and the trail of your malfeasance is clear. Why not turn your attention to the lack of transparency of the Election Commission, the way that one of the candidates (you) manipulated the process so thoroughly that whatever good you might have wanted to do was buried under the weight of your own string-pulling?
Oops, I forgot: Marilyn Marks as a person is based upon the principle that she is never wrong, and that transparency applies to everyone except her.
Best, Michael!

No comments: