The unofficial kick-off to election season in Aspen is “lottery day,” when the order in which candidates names will appear on the ballot is determined.
Last Thursday city clerk Linda Manning stood ready in the empty city council chambers in the basement of city hall. Earlier, she sauntered across the street to Peaches Cafe, where she randomly recruited Andy Curtis and Danielle Arca to conduct the lottery drawing.
“I actually had jury duty this morning, and when I reported they had canceled the case so I felt like this is another opportunity for me to fulfill my civic duty,” said Arca.
During particularly contentious public hearings, council chambers can be packed to the gills, with all the seating filled up and citizens standing along the back of the room. This morning though, only two observers are present: mayoral candidate Cale Mitchell and councilwoman Ann Mullins, who is running for another four-year term.
Each candidate's name is on a piece of paper on display on a table in the middle of the room. Manning read each name to ensure all candidates have a corresponding name tag. She then folded up the scraps and placed them into a festive bowl with red, white and blue stars printed on it — adding a patriotic flair to the ceremony.
Curtis drew the order for the Mayoral ballot (Cale Mitchell, Steve Skadron, Lee Mulcahey), and Arca drew the order for the six candidates running for two open council seats. And with that, the event was over.
For all its pomp, Lottery Day lasts for about one minute. It was so fast, in fact, that city council candidates Skippy Mesirow, Torre and attorney Jim True all arrived too late for the action.
Manning can now go about a slew of tasks leading up to the spring municipal election. Sample ballots will be online this week, ballots get sent in the mail on April 10. This is the second all-mail ballot election for the City of Aspen. Manning said that bodes well for higher participation.
“We are hoping for a big turnout,” said Manning. Participation was high two years ago for the first all-mail election, missing a record turnout by only two voters.
There are 6,300 registered voters within Aspen's city limits, on average 30 to 35 percent of them actually participate in the local elections. Voters can check their registration online, and Torre emphasized the importance of accurate contact information.
“Make sure you are registered at your current address and look for your mail ballot,” he said.
Election research has shown that the the order in which candidates’ names appear on a ballot can be highly influential on the outcome- with the first name winning most often. By coincidence the top-of-the-ticket for both the mayoral and city council races are 30-year old first time candidates.
Skippy Mesirow leads the city’s Next Generation Commission and Planning and Zoning Commission. He has thrown his hat in the ring for one of two open spots on city council.
Cale Mitchell is going all out in his first foray in politics, running for Mayor of Aspen. He grew up here and said, while it’s nice to be at the top of the ballot, he doesn’t necessarily need the boost in name recognition.
Ballots must be returned to the clerk's office my election day, May 2. Manning encourages those who like to wait until the last minute to vote in person at city hall, instead of walking in their mail ballot.