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Daily Sun EDITORIAL: We agree, vote 'No' to keep Single Member Districts

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

OUR POSITION: Voters should mark “No” on question 2 on their March 8 ballot in Sarasota County.

The Daily Sun editorial board has addressed the March 8 vote in Sarasota County to decide if County Commission members should be elected by single member districts, We laid out the debate and pretty much said let the chips fall where they may, but agree to bow to the voters’ will.

We’ve decided to pick a side.

When voters go the poll on March 8 they have two questions on the ballot. One is for a tax that helps subsidize education in the county. Question No. 2 on the ballot asks if commissioners should be elected to represent all people in the county, or just the people in the district where they live.

The Special Election Charter Amendment seeks a return to all county residents electing all the commissioners to represent everyone in the county.

We say vote “No.”

Why would we take a stand now when were not moved to do so previously?

There are three major factors that played into our decision to abandon a neutral position.

One is the flood of dark money into the election. As we wrote last week, a political action committee based in Tallahassee has donated $100,000 to help influence the outcome. They want to return to the way commissioners were elected before things changed in 2018.

We don’t like dark money being thrown into elections by anonymous donors who have a special interest in the outcome. In this case we can only presume the money will be used to help commission members who want to maintain an edge when it comes to getting elected. Some fear having only people in their district vote might open the doors for an upset.

We also took a harder look at the 2018 election. That’s when 60% of county voters across all five county districts and all parties approved a voter-initiated charter amendment in favor of Single Member Districts (SMD).

That was a significant majority. And, in doing so, Sarasota County joined 67% of Florida residents who are represented by a county commission elected in a single member district.

Finally, we always believe the best way to be heard is when the office holder and the voter are closer. Taking your concerns to county government is more efficient and more likely to get action then pleading to Tallahassee. Therefore, it makes sense that a commissioner elected to represent only your district will be more attuned to the concerns in the area where he or she lives.

Some current commissioners argue people were confused in 2018. We’re not sure how they know that. It seems they are giving short shrift to the voters’ ability to understand what’s at stake.

The $100,000 sent to Sarasota by the Republican-controlled PAC will pay for text messages, fliers and a barrage of campaign literature to residents. Some of it has nothing really to do with Sarasota County and the issue at hand.

For example, one text message shows Congressman Greg Steube, of Sarasota, with former President Donald Trump. It says pro-Trump Steube supports having commissioners elected by all voters in the county.

The obvious intent is to play on the loyalty of many voters to Trump.

Don’t fall for it. Vote your conscience.

We believe voters got it right in 2018. Vote “No” on question No. 2 in the March 8 special election.

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