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SARASOTA, Fla. (Dec. 12, 2017) – A bipartisan, grassroots campaign has formed to address low voter turnout in City elections and boost public participation. The initiative will work to provide citizens the opportunity to vote on whether or not to move City elections from March and May of odd-numbered years to August and November of even-numbered years when more voters are already at the polls.

“Amongst the issues that impact local election turnout, it is the timing of the election that appears to be most significant,” said Larry Eger, a longtime Sarasota resident, elected public defender for the 12th Judicial Circuit, and co-chair of the Decide the Date initiative. “Our democracy suffers when nearly 80 percent of registered voters do not or cannot participate.”

Voter turnout in springtime municipal elections is far less than it is during general elections held in the fall. Historically, just 15 to 23 percent of registered voters participate in City elections. However, 50 to 70 percent of those same voters participate in general elections.

City elections must be held in March and May as dictated by the City Charter. In order to change the Charter, to accommodate a shift in election dates, voters must elect to do so. There are two ways that voters can have the opportunity to decide on such a shift. City Commissioners can place the question on a ballot, which they have repeatedly declined to do, or voters can take the issue into their own hands and petition the City to place the question on a ballot.

Moving election dates in the City of Sarasota can be expected to double or triple voter participation. In addition, the campaign, which has broad support within the community, would save taxpayers roughly $100,000 in election expenses every cycle. Because the current system requires additional processes, the City must pay extra for its elections. For years, taxpayers have funded elections that provide less turnout for more money.

Suzanne Atwell, co-chair of the campaign and former Mayor of the City of Sarasota, believes community engagement is a quality of life issue. “For too long, the question of when to elect commissioners in the City of Sarasota has been wrongly kept from the voters. This is simply a bipartisan effort to provide that opportunity – it is the voters who should decide the date.”

For more information, and to download the petition, visit


Contact: Larry Eger, 941-900- 4024,