Member of Sarasota’s Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations provides data showing 57,000 voters would be disenfranchised in 2022 election if ‘Goodrich 2’ map were adopted
Members of a nonpartisan group called Citizens for District Power are urging the Sarasota County Commission not to approve a new map with districts that would prevent as many as 57,000 citizens from voting in the 2022 elections.
At 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 15, the commissioners will conduct a public hearing and then select one of three maps up for consideration. Two of those were submitted by attorney Brian Goodrich of the Sarasota firm Bentley Goodrich Kison. Of more than a dozen maps that community residents turned in to the county, following Commissioner Nancy Detert’s call for public participation, Goodrich’s were the only ones chosen to be advertised for the hearing. (See the related article in this issue.)
The hearing will be conducted in the Commission Chambers on the first floor of the County Administration Center located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. in downtown Sarasota. For more details, visit the meeting webpage on the county website.
Citizens for District Power contends that the map dubbed “Goodrich 2” would shift voters “to make District 2 a safe seat for incumbent Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who is up for reelection in 2022. This year’s swap undoes the side effects of a 2019 gerrymandered redistricting that made District 1 safe for incumbent Commissioner Mike Moran in 2020, but made the District 2 seat vulnerable in 2022,” the Citizens for District Power leaders say in a news release.
“If the commissioners choose the Goodrich 2 map,” the news release adds, “two-thirds of the residents in the City of Sarasota, all the Town of Longboat Key, along with tens of thousands in Nokomis, Venice, Casey Key, Southgate, Forest Lakes, Saddle Creek, Myakka Valley Ranches and other areas will have to sit out another election to choose their county representative.”
During the 2018 General Election, nearly 60% of county voters approved the Single-Member Districts amendment to the Sarasota County Charter. Under that system, citizens may vote just for County Commission candidates who reside in the same district in which the citizens reside. Previously, all commissioners were elected countywide.
Advocates for Single-Member Districts say the measure encourages good, qualified candidates to run for the board because those candidates will not have to incur the expense of a countywide campaign.
In the Nov. 9 press release, Pat Rounds one of the founding members of Citizens for District Power, also contended, “The board is up to the same hijinks that landed it in federal court last year.”
She was referring to a class action complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, in Tampa, that alleged that the commissioners committed racial discrimination in 2019 by approving new district boundaries that moved most of the traditionally African-American community of Newtown, in Sarasota, into District 2. Opponents of that action claimed it was an attempt to ensure the re-election of the District 1 commissioner, Michael Moran, who was expected to run for a second term in 2020. Like all of his colleagues on the board, Moran is a Republican.
Several members of the public pointed out to the commissioners during meetings in 2019 that Newtown citizens typically vote for Democratic candidates.
The shift in district lines also forced former Sarasota Mayor Fredd “Glossie” Atkins to withdraw as a Democratic candidate for the District 1 commission seat. A Newtown resident, Atkins was one of the lead plaintiffs in the federal complaint.
After reviewing all of the filings and conducting oral arguments, the federal judge presiding over the case ruled that he could find no evidence of racial discrimination in the redrawing of the district lines. However, the Citizens for District Power news release notes that the judge “called the 2019 voter swapping scheme, ‘politicalgerrymandering and hardball partisan incumbent protection.’”
The news release further points out that the organization’s members “support County Commission accountability by reinforcing the 2018 voter mandate for Single-Member Districts.”
“Who represents you on the Sarasota County Commission is important because the commissioners have the power to decide growth policy, approve new development, and choose who pays for the infrastructure needed to support that growth,” the release continues.
“The county says it is redistricting this year to even out district populations,” said Tom Matrullo of Citizens for District Power, in the release. “They shouldn’t use redistricting as an excuse to deprive some people of voting for six straight years while giving others the right to vote every two years.”
After the 2020 Census figures were released, county staff found that the county population had grown 14.4% since 2010, and the 2019 districts were out of balance.
Urging Sarasota city residents’ action
Two days before the Citizens for District Power news release was issued, an email blast sent to members of Sarasota’s Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations urged them to contact the county commissioners and voice opposition to the Goodrich 2 map.
That Nov. 7 email included illustrations showing how the district lines in that map would keep “fully two-thirds of city residents” who could not vote during the 2020 County Commission elections from being able to cast ballots in 2022, as well.
The email asked that “all neighborhoods rally” and consider the consequences if the Goodrich 2 map were to be adopted. Additionally, it encouraged the CCNA members to call for the county commissioners to adopt the map that the county’s redistricting consulting firm, Kurt Spitzer & Associates, had created. That has been dubbed Alternative 1-A.
The county board members’ email address, the news release noted, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CCNA email blast also featured a guest column written by R.N. Collins of the Granada Neighborhood Association. An economist with expertise in demographics, Collins told the county commissioners in 2019 that he had found numerous flaws with the data that Kurt Spitzer & Associates used in the 2019 redistricting initiative. Consultant Kurt Spitzer asserted that his work had no serious flaws.
In the column, Collins pointed out that the Goodrich 2 map would move residents of the city’s barrier islands, downtown Sarasota, North Tamiami Trail, areas west of Tamiami Trail and Arlington Park back to District 1, “which means they will sit out another election cycle.”
Moreover, Collins wrote that if the county commissioners adopted the Goodrich 2 map, the residents of the affected city neighborhoods would have “no say in who represents [them]. Instead, the Board of County Commissioners will appoint incumbent Mike Moran as your commissioner. He was elected by voters in 2020 who don’t live in the city and who, unlike you, will get to vote in 2022. … Moran will be your commissioner for the next three years even though you never had a chance to vote for or against him.”
Collins added with emphasis, “Politicians shouldn’t pick their voters — Voters should elect their representatives.”