Aspen voter turnout breaks record
Aspenites come out in force to elect council members

By Carolyn Sackariason
Published May 6th 2009 in Aspen Times
ASPEN — More Aspenites showed up to the polls Tuesday than any other municipal election in recent history.

Tuesday’s election of two new council members — Derek Johnson and Torre, and the re-election of Mayor Mick Ireland — saw a total of 2,544 ballots cast. That’s about 45 percent of 5,665 registered voters — both active and inactive — in Aspen. Typical voter turnout is about 37 or 38 percent, according to City Clerk Kathryn Koch.

There were 2,205 votes cast in 2007’s municipal election — 339 fewer than Tuesday.

Koch last week estimated that about 2,500 people would vote Tuesday, based on the high volume of absentee voters between April 20 and May 1.

“We had a high turnout here,” Koch said of precinct 5A, which accounts for the voters who visit the clerk’s office to cast their ballots before Election Day. She noted that 801 people voted in City Hall and 239 mailed in their ballots. That’s about 300 more than in 2007.

“I’m excited,” she said of the turnout. “I don’t know if it was that there was a large interest in this election or people love voting early.”

Tuesday’s election generated increased attention because of a new election system that had voters rank their preferences for all 13 candidates so an instant runoff could be held.

While many voters were confused about how to fill out the ballot and how the results were tabulated, Koch said the election administrators, True Ballot Inc., who were contracted with the city for $7,500, plus additional costs, did a good job explaining how the system worked.

However, there are critics of the instant runoff voting method, like mayoral candidate Marilyn Marks. She questions whether all of the rules and procedures were followed to the letter of the law.

“I hope in the future we pay attention to our election laws a bit closer,” Marks said Wednesday.