Herald Tribune: Sarasota City Election Turnout Varies By District

March 11, 2015 | By

This article was originally published by the Herald Tribune (March 11, 2015).

Vote Here TodaySARASOTA – Earlier this week, Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent predicted Tuesday’s City Commission election would bring a higher voter turnout than usual.

She was right. Nearly 22 percent of registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday, more than in recent city races. But that was still low compared with general elections. And the voter turnout figures varied by areas of the city.

Tuesday’s City Commission election sent four candidates to a runoff election on May 12 because none drew a majority of support from the 5,428 voters who turned out. Two candidates did not make the cut and were eliminated.

Overall, voter turnout was better than in races in 2011 and 2013, when a citywide election hit a new low with a 17 percent turnout.

But a closer look at the results showed that the higher turnout was specific to District 2, which includes western portions of the city near Sarasota Bay. There, 26 percent of voters turned out, according to statistics from the Supervisor of Elections’ office.

It was much lower in District 3 neighborhoods on the eastern end of the city, where voter turnout was only 16 percent.

That disparity has existed for years, and the low voter turnout extends to District 1. Some in Sarasota have suggested moving city elections to November to gain higher voter turnout in the general elections.

Casey Colburn, a Sarasota attorney and political consultant, questioned City Commission candidates on the issue at a Tiger Bay forum earlier this year. Colburn said the special March election should have gone away with the 1985 NAACP lawsuit that created the districts and led to the first black city commissioner, Fredd Atkins.

“The over-65 white candidates, all three of them, said that they are OK with these vestiges of Jim Crow that have resulted in a certain class of people continuing to dominate the governance of our community,” Colburn said…

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