Decide the Date Sarasota petition campaign earns Sarasota ACLU endorsement

Initiative seeks to move city elections from the spring to the fall

Image from the ACLU of Sarasota webpage

Decide the Date Sarasota, a petition campaign to allow city of Sarasota residents to decide whether to move general city elections from spring to fall, has been endorsed by the Sarasota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, Decide the Date organizers have announced.

Pete Tannen, ACLU chapter president, says in a news release that the group fully supports the efforts of Decide the Date. “A major goal for the ACLU is to make it easier for Floridians to vote, not harder,” Tannen adds in the release. “The evidence overwhelmingly indicates that voters in the city of Sarasota find it more desirable to vote in the fall. As such,” he continues, “they should be given the option to choose whether or not to have their city elections align with that preference.”

“The endorsement from the Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida is extremely important to us,” said Larry Eger, co-chair of Decide the Date, in the release. “The organization has long since championed more inclusive elections and our efforts align closely with that pursuit.”

If successful, the petition campaign would place the question on a ballot that would provide city voters with the choice of modifying the election cycle, the release explains. “If implemented, the shift to August and November elections is anticipated to significantly increase voter turnout for city elections,” the release continues. According to the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office, the release says, during the second 2017 city election, held in May — when two commissioners were elected — turnout among city voters was 22.86%. Just six months prior to that, during the 2016 General Election in November, turnout among city voters was 71.91%, according to the office’s data, the release adds.

The proposed change is also anticipated to help increase the percentage of ballots cast by the city’s minority residents, the release points out. According to additional data obtained from the Supervisor of Elections Office, in the May 2017 city election, 3.99% of registered African American voters in the city cast ballots. During the November 2016 General Election, “that percentage jumped” to 9.68%, the release notes.

Voter participation among Hispanics also went up in the fall. In the spring of 2017, the release says, 1.98% of votes came from Hispanics, but that number was 5.54% in the fall of 2016.

The ACLU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “whose mission is to keep the promise of the Bill of Rights alive for every American,” the release points out. The Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU serves Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties. With more than 3,600 members, the release adds, “it is one of the largest, fastest-growing and most active ACLU chapters in all of Florida.” For more information, visit