Election activist questions recount

Marilyn Marks

An Aspen election activist is questioning preliminary cost projections for the recount in the race for district attorney in the 9th Judicial District, saying they may represent an effort to discourage requests by candidates for recounts.

Marilyn Marks also hopes to see the issue of provisional ballot eligibility revisited in the DA recount, but that apparently won’t be part of the process.

On Monday, incumbent Republican DA Martin Beeson said he plans to request a recount in his race against Democratic challenger Sherry Caloia. Her 192-vote margin of victory was too large to trigger an automatic recount. However, Beeson was able to request a recount as long as he pays the up-front costs, which would be reimbursed if the recount ends up changing the outcome.

The 9th Judicial District covers Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. Pitkin County elections manager Dwight Shellman has initially estimated the recount there might cost $3,500, and Garfield Clerk Jean Alberico has said hers would likely cost at least $5,000.

“It appears from the press reports that the clerks’ offices are grossly exaggerating their costs, possibly in order to discourage the recount. … Please rein in these cost estimates to avoid discouraging needed recounts,” Markham said in an e-mail to Suzanne Staiert, deputy secretary of state.

Marks says recent recounts in Douglas and Teller counties combined cost a total of $2,100.

Alberico said she simply made an estimate, and the ultimate cost will be determined once she gets further clarification from the state on recount procedures.

Shellman said the Douglas and Teller county recounts aren’t comparable because they involved primary races, and in the case of Douglas County, an all-mail election.

“I think any insinuation that we are padding a bill to discourage a recount is really disingenuous,” he said.

Marks also hopes the recount will result in further scrutiny of the hundreds of provisional ballots that the three counties considered, and in some cases disqualified, after Election Day. People can vote provisionally when there are questions about things such as their registration or where they should be voting, and the ballots’ eligibility is determined later.

Secretary of State spokesman Rich Coolidge said when a provisional ballot is accepted for counting, it is separated from its envelope, which is essentially a voter registration form, so there’s no way to know to whom it belongs. Whether or not provisional ballots are valid isn’t part of the recount process, he said.

Marks is particularly interested in the rationale for rejecting some provisional ballots, and believes recount canvass boards are allowed to inquire into disqualified ballots.


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