Voters reject return to countywide voting in Sarasota County
Sarasota County Courthouse.

Sarasota County COurthouse
Voters last weighed in on the issue just four years ago.

It looks like Sarasota County will stick with single-member district elections after all.

Voters shot down a proposal put on the ballot by county commissioners to restore countywide voting. The special vote took place less than four years after voters in the county elected to institute single-member elections.

With all precincts in the county already tabulated, 55,994 votes, 57.24%, came in against a county referendum. Just 41,831 votes, 42.64%, favored the return to a countywide vote. That’s according to unofficial final election results from the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections.

The issue was last debated in Sarasota County in 2018. More than 193,000 voters made it past the major elections and a host of constitutional amendments on the ballot, and 59.84% of those who voted approved a county charter amendment.

Kindra Muntz, president of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, said even posing the question feels like an attack upon the electorate’s intelligence.

“It is unnecessary and insulting to the people of Sarasota,” she said.

The Republican Party of Sarasota campaigned in favor of returning to countywide elections in the Republican-leaning area. Democrats, meanwhile, campaigned against countywide votes both in 2018 and this year, and encouraged voters to shoot this charter amendment down.

Of note, this isn’t the first controversial response to the change in election systems that the County Commission delivered. Commissioners in 2019 redistricted a year ahead of the U.S. Census. While supporters of the move cited a need to balance populations, advocates for single-member voting questioned the move and said it was an attempt to redraw the county’s only Democrat-leaning district before voters could toss a Republican incumbent out. Indeed, County Commissioner Mike Moran won re-election after the election was redrawn to favor the GOP.

The Commission redrew lines again after Census numbers confirmed a population imbalance remained. But this time, they left District 2 as a Democrat-leaning. It’s represented today by Republican County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, the only Commissioner who opposed the 2019 redistricting effort.

Numbers provided by the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections show Republicans hold a registration age in most parts of the county. As of book closing for the March 8 election, District 1 has 30,533 Republicans and 20,148 Democrats; District 3 boasts 33,588 Republicans and 19,173 Democrats; District 4 hosts 32,156 Republicans and 21,085 Democrats; and District 5 holds 30,402 Republicans and 17,393 Democrats. In Districts 3 and 5, voters with no party affiliation actually outnumber Democrats.

But in District 2, Democrats hold the plurality, with 25,790 registered voters compared to 23,474 Republicans.

Ziegler supported a return to countywide voting, and notably opposed the push for single-member districts even when he was running to represent a Republican jurisdiction.

His support for the return to countywide voting proved controversial, and even led to a public tiff with Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell, who argued at-large voting historically has limited the political power of minority groups. That included, at one point, Florida Republicans.

The election also controversially inspired highly criticized messaging from supporters of single-member districts, who sent fliers to Republican voters that incorporated former President Donald Trump’s “Stop the Steal” slogan and conspiracy mongering.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


11 comments

  • Tony C.

    March 8, 2022 at 10:02 pm

    Mr Ogles,
    You neglected to note that the fliers sent by the supporters of single member districts were purposely disguised to look like they came from Republicans( (complete with President Trumps picture and slogan of stop the steal) advocating a NO vote on the measure when Republicans were advocating a YES vote on the issue.
    We used to call these dirty tricks that show how a political party would stoop to such lows to get their way.
    The annoying part is the news didn’t mention it or,like you, left out the information that would show the purposeful deception by a political party on the voting public.
    This should ,in my opinion,have been a major story((bordering on election fraud) with pictures of the fliers for illustration and disclose of who was behind this fraud.
    Tony C.

    • Reggie Wilson

      March 9, 2022 at 6:26 pm

      Amen Tony C….. Is it any wonder people are suspect of crooked elections?… Hey Jacob , I guess after this, you can count me as a “conspiracy monger”…. In the future write the WHOLE truth or keep your mouth shut!!

  • William Glade

    March 8, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    Democrats will control Sarasota county within 5-8 years

    • Trevor Morris

      March 9, 2022 at 1:17 am

      Unfortunately, I’ve heard that wish for 35 years.

    • Carole

      March 16, 2022 at 1:52 am

      HOPEFUL

  • Mike Cosentino

    March 9, 2022 at 2:00 am

    Mr. Ogles,
    Thank you for your coverage. Because I’m a Democrat, I was especially mortified by the deceptive mailer put out picturing former president Trump. To me, it didn’t seem appropriate to debase ourselves by using the same deceptive practices that are regularly employed by our local Pretend Republican (PR) Party’s leadership.

    We, the people, could have, would have, and SHOULD have won this by simply telling the truth: the only way grass-roots candidates of either party can win against the puppets set forth by the development cabal is through Single Member District voting.

    Just like in 2018, our voters demonstrated strong bipartisan support for SMD’s. Kudos to democrats Pat Rounds and Kindra Muntz (and many others) for their work. And kudos to the growing list of Actual Republicans, (AR), whose strong support for SMD’s swung the vote. Let’s hope Bill Zoller, Tom Matrullo, Mike Hutchinson, Lourdes Ramirez, Alexandra Coe, Matt Soldano, Dan Lobeck, and the rest of the Actual Republicans can boot Jack Brill and his crony Pretend Republicans to the curb and reestablish the goal of good governance that’s been missing in that party’s candidates since Jon Thaxton, Shannon Staub, Nora Patterson, and Paul Mercier were term-limited out of office in 2012.

    Sincerely,
    Mike Cosentino

    • EH Freeman

      March 9, 2022 at 3:13 am

      Thanks Mike! You hit the nail exactly on the head!

  • Edward Harrison

    March 9, 2022 at 3:10 am

    Way to go Sarasota County. Now please vote all the crooks off the County Commission and run the worst of the worst, the Zieglers and the Robinsons, out of town while you are at it.

  • Mark Crawford

    March 9, 2022 at 10:27 am

    As a lifelong constitutional conservative I was appalled by the GOP position on this. It is tantamount to supporting elimination of congressional districts, eliminating state specific senate races, and even eliminating state elector college delegates.

    • Trevor Morris

      March 10, 2022 at 4:16 pm

      Agreed. It seems like both conservatives and liberals should support single-member districts here for overlapping, but not exactly for the same reasons.

Comments are closed.


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