Sarasota News Leader

01/24/2014

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Sarasota News Leader January 24, 2014 OPINION consideration: moving municipal elections to November, when voter turnout tends to be higher. It would be higher still if the elections for municipal officials were held in even years, when county officials are selected. Consider the general election of 2012, which also had a presidential contest on the ballot. A number of charter amendments for the City of Sarasota were on the ballot and more than 55 percent of city voters turned out to cast ballots on those proposals, defeating the vast majority. But the fact remains that more than three times as many city voters cast ballots for or against those charter amendments in November than cast ballots for the election of two new city commissioners the following March. Therefore, holding city elections in even years in November should have the effect of dramatically increasing voter participation. Page 72 to struggle with the major issues confronting the city. It becomes, to use a popular computer-programming acronym, "GIGO" — "garbage in, garbage out." But a wholesale rewriting of the city charter is not needed. Moreover, advocates have not proven that a conversion of the city's governing model to one with a strong mayor is necessary, as indicated by voters' abject rejection of such a proposal the last three times it was attempted. Moving city elections to November, especially if they are held in even years, just might increase voter participation enough that better-qualified candidates would want to run, and citizens might be more open to serious discussions of amending the city charter. However, this current dark-of-night approach Of course, that change will not address the is wrong, and a disservice to the city — even eye-rolling and yawning by city voters as a city populated by apparently disinterested the usual cadre of hacks and rejects file to citizens. run, yet again, for a plum seat on the City Commission. It still is necessary for seriously Work to amend the charter to move the city qualified and civic-minded citizens to step elections to November. Then see how that forward and offer themselves for election to impacts voter participation. the City Commission. If it has little or no effect — credible candiWe believe the traditional election in March even further suppresses voter turnout. The sad effect of this is that a handful of city voters make the biennial Hobson's Choice for the latest additions to the City Commission, and that dysfunctional body then continues dates for the City Commission are still in short supply, and voters cannot be bothered to show up on Election Day — then the larger question, which has been broached by some, but mostly ignored, will return to the fore: Does the City of Sarasota even need to exist? %

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