SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Tuesday morning, Sarasota County Commissioners approved a plan to redistrict the county, despite many community members who voiced their opposition to the change.
Opponents accuse the Commission of wanting to redistrict for political reasons, but County Commissioners insist the purpose is to even out the population among districts.
The discussion comes after voters in Sarasota County passed the amendment that changed how commissioners are elected. Previously, voters in the entire county chose each commissioner for each district. Now single member districts mean only the people who live in that district can vote for the commissioner representing them.
During a meeting on Tuesday, a consultant broke down the total population of Sarasota County. He said in 2018, there were just over 417,000 people who live in the county. He divided that number by the five districts, finding that each commissioner would represent about 83,000 people if it were divided equally.
But the way the county is spread out, the consultant said that the district with the lowest population actually has just under 80,000 people and the one with the most has 89,000 people.
Commissioner Charles Hines of District 5 read from a Supreme Court opinion that said the voting power of the community loses its value if they live in a district that has significantly more people than another one.
“It’s unusual circumstances, I think the balance has to be as accurate as we can make it," agreed Commissioner Nancy Detert of District 3. "The voters voted. We’re trying to implement what they voted. There were not a lot of details.”
But many community members in attendance refuted that argument, accusing the Commission of wanting to redistrict in order to keep Republican control.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Wait until after the Census to redraw county lines," said one citizen of Sarasota County, Daniel Bowles.
Opponents want commissioners to wait for the 2020 Census to give an accurate count that won’t be on the taxpayers’ tab.
Commissioner Christian Ziegler was the only one on the Board to agree with the opponents and he was far outnumbered.