Yet Another Run-Off For Aspen

May 8, 2013

Aspen residents cast their ballots for the city council and Mayor’s seat yesterday. The two council spots were easily filled, by Art Daily and Ann Mullins. But the mayor’s race is still too close to call. It’s not the first time the city’s had a run-off, although more unusual for it to happen with a mayor’s race. Aspen Public Radio's Elise Thatcher reports.

City Clerk Kathryn Koch runs Aspen’s elections. On Tuesday night, she described what happened when none of the mayoral candidates had enough votes to win outright.

“Steve Skadron has the most votes, Torre had the second most, they will be in a run-off for Mayor, June 4th.”

Earlier this week, Koch explained why Aspen elections work that way. It has to do with what’s called the Home Rule Charter--the document which guides how the city is run.

City Clerk Kathryn Koch tallies votes during the May 7th Aspen City Election.
Credit Elise Thatcher

“Ah, our charter says...that in order to be elected mayor, a candidate has to get 50 percent one plus vote.”

That’s a bit more than what’s required to win a city council seat. The top two vote getters in the mayor’s race then enter a run-off... And that brings us to where we are now. Run-offs weren’t even an option before the year 2000. That’s when voters decided to add them to the city charter. They’ve kicked in several times for regular city council seats. Again, Kathryn Koch.

“So we had a runoff in 2001, three, five… and then in 2009 we had instant runoff voting.”

City residents decided to get rid of instant runoffs after the controversial 2009 mayor’s election. Now Aspen’s back to the version the city had before. And it means this, according to clerk Katheryn Koch:

“The June 4th runoff election is carried exactly the same as the may 7th regular election. So it’s putting on two elections.”

With all the moving parts that make it possible for voters to cast a ballot in a number of different ways.\

“So we notify the ballot company that candidate b and d are in the runoff. And they print ballots, we mail them to 1654 permanent mail in voters and we start the absentee and get judges and polling places all over again.

Aspenites might get a little deja vu in the coming month. With essentially two elections back to back, we asked if the city… and taxpayers… will be paying twice as much to find out who’s the next mayor.

“It does. It does. Cause you conduct the run off the same as you run the election, so you know there’s no sloughing off. Of course, the ballot will only have two names on it.”

And printing costs might be a little cheaper this time around. Koch’s office should know right away… because this second election keeps employees from getting much of a break.

“It means that we get to sleep until 8 tomorrow and start all over again.”

As for the business of governing, more than one Aspen official said Tuesday the run-off election won’t cause any delays for work the city has to get done. City council will also be back to work, with run-off contenders Steve Skadron and Torre at the table.