SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) – Voters in Sarasota: get ready to mark your votes on a crowded ballot next month. If some leaders in the city get their way, you’ll have to vote on even more candidates in the upcoming general elections.
Right now, the city holds its election for the city commission race every other spring, but each one costs taxpayers $100,000. Now it’s up to you to decide if you want to continue to vote in that election, or have them coincide with federal, state, and county elections.
“Americans are conditioned to vote in November. It’s a fact, its just the reality,” said Sarasota city Commissioner Hagen Brody.
A group of city leaders including Commissioner Brody and former mayor Suzanne Atwell are pushing to move the race to November, which historically has a larger turnout with more minorities, and younger voters showing up at the polls.
“It’s a much more representative electorate of what our community makeup actually is and it’s a broader makeup,” explained Brody.
Leaders behind the “Change the Date” initiative say more than 26,000 voters in city limits cast their ballots in November 2016; a race fueled by the presidential election, but for the commission race six months later, Sarasota saw just a third of those voters.
“Instead of asking them to come to our special election and spend $100,000 doing it, we should take this election to the voters,” said Commissioner Brody.
According to Brody, the city of Sarasota spends $100,000 every year for the municipal election.
He called it a waste of money, since voter turnout is historically low for those elections.
“I think the community disagrees wholeheartedly and will reject the idea that less voters participating is a better thing for our democracy,” stated Brody.
“Maybe voter turnout isn’t as important as a lot of people think it is,” argued Mollie Cardamone, former Sarasota mayor and commissioner.
Cardamone told ABC7 this isn’t the first push to move the commission race to November. The last several attempts failed, which is okay with her.
“When we have it in march and run off in the early spring we have the focus in the entire county on the city of Sarasota elections,” stated Cardamone.
She fears the city commission race would get lost on a massive November ballot, filled with amendments, referendums, federal, state, and local races. She also worries about the timing of the election.
“We’re not [just] talking about a November election, we’re also talking about an August primary,” explained Cardamone.
Cardamone ran for city commission in Spring 1993, and was able to build relationships with constituents in the months prior. If voters approve to move the election to the fall, the Supervisor of Elections Office may have to also hold August elections, depending on the number of candidates.
Cardamore argued that the August primary wouldn’t give snowbirds enough time to learn about city-wide issues, and says its best to keep things how they are.
“There’s a lot of opportunity for the city commission candidates to have time to express our points of view, to attend forums, to have programs, visit condo associations, walk the neighborhoods,” said Cardamone.
After spending more than half-a-million dollars to administer city election in the last decade, many say it’s time for change.
“It’s just time for our community to move in this direction,” said Commissioner Brody.
Sarasota may follow in the city of Bradenton’s footsteps, which moved its election from odd to even numbered years in 2010. According to “Change the Date,” 14% of voters cast their ballots in 2009, and after voters approved the change, 71% of voters came out in 2012, and 53% in 2014.
Link to the ABC 7 video and article can be found here.