-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, April 7, 2010

What’s being hidden, and why? (Letter to Editor by Al Kolwicz) Aspen Transparency Litigation

What’s being hidden, and why?

Does anybody know why the City of Aspen is fighting so desperately to prevent public review of the May 2009 election files?

Is there something within the computer files that if disclosed could embarrass City officials?  If so, City resources shouldn’t be used to protect these officials.

Are officials misusing the powers of government for political purposes?  Are they intending to crush anyone who opposes their objectives?

Let’s think about it.  The City has refused a second public viewing of scans of ballots.  Nowhere in Colorado’s Constitution or Open Records Act, or Colorado’s election law or Aspen municipal codes, are officials exempt from producing these files (not the ballots) in response to an Open Records request.  Yet Aspen has refused every such request.

The City has put forth many specious arguments – all twisting the law to its limit and beyond.  Each of their arguments has been countered by a solution offered by Marks.

When the city claimed that the sequence of the ballots might be used to identify voters, Marks solved this objection by suggesting that the ballot images be shuffled.

When the City claimed that handwriting on scanned write-in ballots might be used to identify voters, Marks solved this objection by suggesting that write-in ballot images be removed, and a set of duplicated write-in ballots prepared and produced in place of the write-in ballot images.

When the City claimed that there might be some other way that the ballot images might be used to identify voters, Marks suggested that any ballot images the City felt were not anonymous be removed from the files released in response to the Open Records request.

Are there other forces in play?  Does someone fear that release of the ballot images in Aspen might ripple to a requirement for statewide transparency?  Who else might have reasons to suppress Marks’s reasonable requests?

The city has mounted a spectacular resistance to openness.  They have created expensive volumes of misinformation, either the work product of misinformed writers or an intentional effort to confuse readers. 

The public can learn the difference between privacy, anonymity, and security.  So could the City, once the lawyers stop working to block Mark’s reasonable Open Records requests, and start working to find a way to meet them.

It appears that the City intends to fight release of the scanned images “to the death” so to speak.  The good people of Aspen must find out for themselves, why is the City fighting so aggressively?

Al Kolwicz
Colorado Voter Group

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