-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

Saturday, May 22, 2010

City talks down, lawyers up (Letter in Aspen Times May 22) Harvie Branscomb

The following letter was published May 22, 2010 in The Aspen Times

Dear Editor:
City Council and staff don't seem to mind pursuing their expensive defense against Marilyn Marks' effort to obtain reasonable transparency of election records. Ironically, they are now generally fighting against transparency promised prior to last May's election. The engagement of high profile Denver-based criminal defense counsel shows their intention to gear up. Will Aspen simply protect their many election irregularities with big-time lawyers or instead solve the underlying problems and make sure anonymous records become accessible? I am hoping for the latter.
There is transparency news from Michigan. Activists there were seeking actual paper ballots for audit purposes, while Marilyn only seeks indestructible electronic copies. Last week they received good news from their attorney general. He advised that Michigan's voted ballots are indeed public records and can be inspected and audited subject to open records request. The statement is posted at  http://aspenelectionreview.blogspot.com/2010/05/text-of-michigan-attorney-generals.html

But in Aspen, Marilyn Marks has been confronted with aggressive obstacles to obtaining mere digital copies of similar records. Her transparency litigation will move to the Appeals Court if Judge Boyd refuses to reconsider, again with Aspen voters footing the bill for efforts

 that work against their own interests. Aspen officials have hidden the ballot images instead of pro-actively making election transparency a reality using the flexible power of Aspen's Home Rule Charter. A year would have been long enough to make long-requested corrections.

Michigan reminds us that anonymous ballots are the peoples' documents that must be accessible for post election audits and analysis. Minnesota posted Franken/Coleman recount ballots on the web. Bush/Gore ballots were made available in Florida for public inspection. Closer to home, Longmont and El Paso County (Colorado Springs) have conducted reviews involving giving ordinary citizens access to voted ballots. Should Aspen's elections be less transparent?

Aspen's overprotective concern about ballot images is going against a good governance trend of increased election accountability. In March 2009 Aspen Council members promised “anyone can count the ballots at home to verify the election.” Commitments of verifiability, adequate testing, and certified software can now be seen as unfulfilled expectations, meant to artificially boost voter confidence while experimenting with a new election method. Instead of reviewing and fulfilling these excellent promises, the city is beginning to look like a vengeful enemy of transparency.

Rather than threatening or actually punishing Marilyn or other potential activists, city officials should consider the logic and good governance principles articulated in Michigan's reinforcement of the fundamental concept of citizen oversight of elections. Public assets should be used to enhance election transparency and integrity, not fight it.

Harvie Branscomb

El Jebel

No comments: