Aspen Times article on 2007 referendum causing Aspen CO to use Instant Runoff

"Voters approve instant runoff voting"
ASPEN TIMES 7 Nov 2007
By John Colson, Aspen Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen voters decided Tuesday that they were tired of lengthy runoff campaigns and going to the polls twice for the same electoral contest.

Or, as Mayor Mick Ireland quipped when voters overwhelmingly approved instant runoff voting, "They're tired of me showing up at their door," a reference to his well-known campaigning tactic of roaming neighborhoods in search of votes.

City voters also approved the other four ballot questions, by wide margins, in an election that drew only 837 voters to the polls.

That comes to just more than 16 percent of the 5,167 registered voters in the city, according to figures the Pitkin County Clerk's office released. By comparison, in the first round of voting in Aspen's municipal election last spring, the turnout was roughly 44 percent.

Because there were no candidates or hotly contested issues in Tuesday's election, observers accurately predicted a low turnout. Only in the absentee ballots were the tallies even close regarding the individual questions.

One of the biggest winners of the evening was the decision to enact instant runoff voting, which won by a margin of 608 to 186, or 72 percent to 22 percent.

Identified as ballot question 2E, instant runoff voting was ahead from very early on election night, beginning with absentee and early voting tallies, as were the other four questions.

Voter Doug Allen said he favored instant runoffs, which gives voters the option of ranking candidates in order of preference – first, second, third, etc. First choices are tabulated, and if a candidate receives the majority of first choices, or 50 percent plus one vote, he or she is elected. If no one receives the majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoffs are simulated using each voter's preferences, indicated on the ballot.

"It gets it all over with much more expediently," Allen said.

Several voters noted the expense of having a second round of elections – both for the city and candidates, who must muster a follow-up campaign – as sufficient reason to change the system.

Runoffs are "a drain for people after they've already gone through one campaign," said Karen Day-Greenwood. "It's so hard on everybody and expensive."

Voters amended the city charter in November 2000 to institute runoff voting and the first runoff took place in June 2001, when voters chose Helen Klanderud over Rachel Richards for mayor after neither candidate received 50 percent of the votes cast, plus one, in the first go-round.

One voter Tuesday said she voted against 2E, swayed by this year's mayoral race between Mick Ireland and Tim Semrau. Ireland ultimately won the post in the June runoff after the candidates spent an additional month stumping for votes and clarifying their stances on the issues, while voters mulled over their choice for mayor.

"I guess it doesn't hurt to have a second thought about it," she said.

As for the other questions on the ballot, voters gave their nods to:

Return to main page