Gerrymandering on Steroids
Updated: Jul 14
Our County Commission spent eight months and thousands in taxpayer revenue last year redrawing District boundaries after being stunned in 2018 when voters endorsed Single-Member Districts—which requires direct representation and greater accountability. Commissioner Detert made the following comments in a Herald Tribune article published last September:
“....In the end, Detert said people will be able to see clearly if the commission districts have been gerrymandered and the work will speak for itself.”
“Gerrymandering is pretty obvious when you see it,” she said. “You hopped around the map to pick up communities that you liked. I don’t think you’ll see any of that.”
Let’s see if the Commission’s work “speaks for itself.”
After burying redistricting research done by County staff, the County Commission hired an outside consultant whose methods and results were questioned by his own sub-contractor. Then, ignoring concerns raised by county residents, local media and City officials----Commissioners Detert, Moran and Maio approved a map submitted by a controversial political operative (identified by a pseudonym instead of his proper name).
In North County, the operative’s map created a revolving door effect---moving thousands of minorities out of District 1, preventing them from voting for County Commission this year. His map also moved thousands of white residents into District 1---enabling them to vote for County Commission.
While a federal lawsuit focused on the racial aspects of the population shifts favoring Commissioner Moran in District 1, little attention was paid to changes made to Districts 3 and 5 in South County. A virtual shell game was played to benefit Nancy Detert, the Commissioner who declared that no funny stuff would happen.
Since 2016, Ms. Detert has represented District 3---with boundaries primarily encompassing North Port. She resides in Venice on the far west side of the original District 3.
Compare the final two maps considered for approval:
Spitzer Alt.2 Map
Waechter 4.1 Map
Alt Map 2 was created by the outside consultant. It generally maintains District 3 with a North Port focus.
Waechter 4.1 Map was created by the political operative. Districts 3 and 5 have been switched---District 3 is now primarily the Venice area, not North Port—custom-made for Commissioner Detert’s Venice mailing address. District 5 moved east to include most of North Port and still includes Englewood.
So, with their approval of Waechter 4.1, Commissioners Detert and Moran “hopped around the map to pick up communities” they liked. Yes--Gerrymandering is “pretty obvious when you see it”.
Voters pick their Commissioners, not vice versa. We the People can create a new majority on the County Commission this November by electing candidates in Districts 1, 3 and 5 who serve the public interest, not their own.
Despite strong opposition from developers and builders, the 2018 citizens’ Charter Amendment to move to single member districts passed by a clear margin in all five districts. According to a Federal Judge who reviewed it, the Board’s 2019 redistricting was "simple political gerrymandering and ‘hardball’ partisan incumbent protection.”.
Ahead of the 2020 primaries and election, a new group of volunteers is working to provide voters with clear, unbiased information. Citizens for District Power will soon launch a website devoted to public information about Sarasota’s Districts and candidates.
Citizens for District Power -- CDP for short -- believes informed citizens will elect the best candidates independent of the tight industry syndicate whose money and power has controlled Sarasota County for at least the last decade.
Citizens for District Power Website: www.cdpsarasota.org
CDP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/citizens4districtpower/
CDP on Twitter: https://twitter.com/4_sarasota.
This article first appeared in the July 2020 issue of Critical Times