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The deceptive extra ballot question March 8

On March 8, 2022, the 1-mill referendum renewal election will have an extra item on the ballot: a Charter amendment by the Sarasota County Commissioners to overturn single member districts for electing County Commissioners and change county commission elections back to county-wide voting.

Voters in Sarasota County voted overwhelmingly in 2018 to change to single member districts with good reason. Sarasota is the 14th largest county of 67 in the state. It takes big money to run statewide. Only candidates well-funded by special interests can win. As a result, commissioners elected countywide who should be responsible to every voter, often don’t listen to the voters, and simply ignore their wishes completely. Big moneyed interests donate thousands to their campaigns to reap millions in return. Candidates supposedly well-qualified to serve the public interest serve private interests above all. The public gets stuck with the bills and the loss of quality of life.

Commissioners are so intent on overturning single member districts that they can’t wait until November to get full voter participation this issue. They seized the opportunity to change the system in a low-turnout Special Election. They will be happy to achieve their goal March 8 with perhaps just 35,000 voters overturning the will of almost 116,000 voters who passed Single Member Districts in November, 2018. Apparently, they don’t care if the few overrule the many.

That’s not democracy.

Commissioners can’t even submit their ballot amendment to the Supervisor of Elections until January 10, because a Special Election must be held within 60 days of filing. Odd, isn’t it, that they chose this way to overrule the wishes of the voters? Could they be trying to catch unaware people who haven’t been following the issue to vote Yes-Yes on the ballot without thinking?

Please think before you vote March 8.

And be sure to VOTE!

Single member districts for electing County Commissioners give you direct representation and more accountability from your Commissioner. Your one vote for your commissioner is more powerful than votes for five commissioners diluted across the county. When only the voters in your district elect your Commissioner, you won’t let 80% of voters countywide decide who your Commissioner will be.

In 2020, three of the five County Commission districts elected their Commissioner by single member district. Qualified challengers ran in Districts 1, 3 and 5. Voters turned out in force. District 1 Commissioner Mike Moran (left, a mailer Moran used in his campaign) barely defeated his Primary challenger Mike Hutchinson by 365 votes. The competition was inspiring for the voters and good for the county.

In District 5, Commissioner Jill Luke of the North Port City Commission said recently: “There are several people that I’ve run into that like me did not vote for Single Member District initially, but after going through the last election cycle for our District… we are convinced that this is the ‘right’ way to hold elections in our County.”

In 2022, Districts 2 and 4 haven’t even had a chance to elect their Commissioner by single member district. They deserve their opportunity this November. It may be too late to persuade the Commissioners to cancel their referendum, but if you receive fancy mailers saying “Do you want to take back your four lost votes?” don’t be fooled. VOTE NO on their Charter amendment on the March 8 ballot. Your power is in electing your own County Commissioner. Save single member districts. Your District - Your vote - Your power.

Kindra Muntz

Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections

January 6, 2022

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