New District Maps Coming For Sarasota County | Sarasota


As Sarasota County works to redraw the map outlining district boundaries for the commission elections, some officials are expressing hope that the process will be simpler than it was in 2019.

“Our consultant thinks he can do it quickly by moving just a few lines,” County Commissioner Nancy Detert said. “I think he can too.”

The departmental committee voted unanimously today to produce a new district map before the end of the year based on data from the 2020 census. According to information presented at today’s meeting, Census data shows a 14.2% gap between populations in the county’s smallest and largest districts – a gap above the 10% benchmark used to determine whether a map is generally legally defensible.

The commission’s latest redistribution effort came two years ago, passing a new map over vocal objections from some residents. Although county staff estimated that a district map produced in 2011 remained legally defensible, a projection by a consultant established the difference between the largest and the smallest districts at 12.3%. Critics of the 2019 redistribution effort argued that the available demographic data was not reliable enough to warrant a new map, and that adjusting district boundaries twice in two years would unnecessarily prevent some voters from participating in the elections. 2020 and 2022 elections.

Despite any controversy – and census data showing a lack of balance on the 2019 map – some county officials supported the previous redistribution effort.

“We were right to do it before,” said Detert. “We balanced it pretty well. We have to do it again, but in a much smaller way. “

Resident RN Collins spoke at today’s meeting and urged the county to prioritize fairness and logic during the redistribution process. Although Commissioner Mike Moran suggested that the redistribution could become a biennial undertaking, Collins discouraged the idea of ​​trying to continually adjust the boundaries without benefiting from census-level demographics.

“We don’t want to stop big blocks of people from voting for six, eight, 10 years,” Collins said.

Collins said the use of the 2011 district maps in the 2020 election would have been only slightly less balanced than the redesigned maps the county adopted in 2019.

“I would recommend not to do any recutting between censuses because it’s very, very, very difficult to break down the sub-county population based on the type of estimates available,” Collins said.

The county agreed to consultant Kurt Spitzer and Associates to draw alternative maps that sought to minimize disruption to existing boundaries. The commission also asked County Administrator Jonathan Lewis to create a portal for residents to submit proposed district plans. The 2019 map passed was based on a submission by resident Bob Waechter, former Chairman of the Sarasota County Republican Party – another aspect of the previous redistribution effort that drew criticism.

Since 2019, county officials have said that a voter-backed charter amendment creating single-member districts for county commission races created the need for a greater focus on maintaining the balance of the map. Previously, the five committee seats were filled in county-wide elections. Although some officials have expressed dissatisfaction with single-member districts, two speakers at today’s meeting sought to push back any attempts to overturn the 2018 referendum result.

Resident Pat Rounds noted that the recently completed county community survey showed that 40% of respondents approve of single-member districts, while 26% disapprove.

“The people of Sarasota County have now told you twice that they want direct representation and accountability from the county commissioners,” Rounds said.

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