Aspen voters came out in favor of moving the municipal election from the off-season month of May to March, backing a campaign which argued that holding the vote when more people are in town will increase turnout.
City of Aspen Ballot Issue 2A to move the municipal election had 68 percent of the vote, with roughly 80 percent of the ballots counted on Tuesday evening.
The May election date put the municipal vote in the middle of the slowest time on Aspen’s seasonal calendar. Proponents of Ballot Issue 2A estimate that 1,500 more year-round residents are in town in early March than early May.
Skippy Mesirow, a leader of the campaign to move the election, estimated that turnout will go up. He added that Aspen should hold itself up to a long-term goal of 100 percent voter participation.
Art Daily, a former city councilman, wrote in a letter to the editor endorsing 2A that “being here, even during our busy season, when you can read the paper, talk to friends and neighbors and coworkers, and have people knock on your door, will increase your interest in and understanding of the issues and make you more likely to vote.”
Arguments against moving the election held that because town is busier, locals tend to be tied up with work. Campaigns starting in December and running through the heart of the ski season could make it less likely that people who have to work for a living will run. Mesirow countered that since governing is a year-round job, candidates need to be prepared to campaign even when it is busy.
Following 2A’s win, the next municipal election will be held in four months on March 5, instead of May 7. Nominating packets for the coming March election will be available starting Dec. 4 and will be due on Dec. 26.
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said he “could go either way” on 2A, but ultimately voted no.
“I was afraid that moving the election to the busier winter season would create more of an impediment for qualified candidates to run,” Skadron said. These impediments include more competition for newspaper advertising space and venues to hold campaign events.
Skadron predicted that municipal elections would become more expensive and he questioned how much more turnout will occur. He added that in five municipal elections in which he has run, he has enjoyed the May window because the community — “at least those who are interested” — has nothing to focus on but the election.
However, he said he will be pleased if turnout does increase and credited the proponents of 2A for getting the issue on the ballot.
Mesirow, who ran for council in 2017 but came up short, said he is considering running again in March, but will take some time over the next month to make up his mind. He said he invites those who are concerned about campaign finance becoming more difficult in the high season to reach out to him and that campaign finance reform could be next on the agenda.