Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent will present her plan to consolidate voting precincts during the County Commission’s regular meeting next Tuesday, May 22.
According to a memo signed by Dent, the reorganization was instituted by the county, which had asked her to “change the commission district boundaries” to reflect the latest census data (similar to the ongoing redistricting battle at the state and congressional levels). As a result of those changes, “it is in the best interests of the electorate of Sarasota County that the previously-established precincts be reconfigured and renumbered and that new polling places be designated,” Dent writes.
But which precincts will be cut and which preserved? Dent tells The Sarasota News Leader that, for example, she wants to eliminate multiple precincts that vote at the same polling location. If five precincts all vote in the same place, why not simply make them one precinct?
Dent says another priority is to ensure that all those voting in one polling location are in the same commission and legislative districts, and therefore using the same ballot. That’s a way to reduce confusion and potential error.
From the documents filed with the commission, it’s difficult to tell which areas of Sarasota County will be most affected by the reorganization. The maps of the precincts show only the individual precincts one by one; there is no overall county map to give the public a sense of where the consolidation is heaviest.
Could the reorganization lead to longer lines on election day? It’s possible. Remember that the Florida Legislature last year cut down the number of available early voting days in its omnibus elections bill. In local elections earlier this year, the state saw a decrease in early voting in those counties that had already adopted the new law. All that means that more Sarasota County voters will likely be casting their ballots on election day this year. And with fewer precincts, that could mean longer lines.