Some locals not happy about Sarasota holding March elections

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SARASOTA - Only 1 in 6 registered voters went to the polls on Tuesday, and some say voting in March and not November is part of the problem.

Choosing these 2 seats is also going to cost taxpayers over a $100,000.

Some call it the cost of democracy, while some taxpayers call it a waste of money.

Tom McNamara didn't vote in Tuesday's election. “I was going to vote but I missed the date. You missed the date? I missed the date.”

He wasn't alone. 85 percent of voters didn't show up. In round numbers--of the city's 35,000 registered voters, only about 6,000 voted, or about 15 percent.

Some are saying it's due to the unusual march voting, and along with that is an additional expense. City Manager Thomas Barwin admits the cost has gone up quite a bit in the past two years alone. “The elections of 2011 cost $72 thousand, the elections of 2013 cost $120 thousand.”

Barwin calls it the cost of democracy, but voters like McNamara would move the election to November. “I think that's a good idea. We can save money by doing that.”

“I've had different people tell me they prefer the spring, because it puts more attention on the candidates for the city, but others say it's a cost savings and it's definitely that,” says Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent.

Barwin says the turnout and cost are right in line with national standards, and he doesn't seem to feel there's an urgent need to change the city charter.

Some people believe if you held it in November you could save money and also have a better turnout. “Well, that's a competing theory and the downside is, you have an awfully long ballot and there's fall off after the gubernatorial or presidential ballot,” says Barwin.

Two years ago, the Charter review Board chose not to change it.

Not all the cities in Sarasota County do it this way. Longboat Key and Sarasota are in March, but North Port and Venice are held in November.