The town of Longboat Key is bumping up the date of its March election, and Longboat Key Town Commission candidate Gene Jaleski is questioning the decision.
The town’s charter sets the date for the town’s general election as the third Tuesday in March, which puts the date for an election that includes three Longboat Key Town Commission races March 19.
But Town Clerk Trish Granger told commissioners Dec. 10, at their regular workshop, that a strong case could be made to move the March election a week earlier to March 12.
“Sarasota has three elections March 12, and Kathy Dent, at the Supervisor of Elections Office, has asked us to consider aligning our election with those three elections because it’s beneficial for her staff,” Granger said.
By sharing an election day with Sarasota, the town would save advertising fees for the election canvassing board and could share early-voting costs.
In addition, the charter provides the option for the town to align its election with any other county-administered election.
Jaleski, though, is questioning why the town is moving its election date and sent an email to Town Manager Dave Bullock Dec. 11, with a series of questions about the change.
Jaleski asked whether there is enough time to approve an ordinance on first and second reading and asked how much it will cost town taxpayers for staff to help assist in making the change.
Jaleski pointed to staff time to write and present an ordinance, legal costs for vetting an ordinance and costs for a special meeting that might need to be held to approve the ordinance.
“What are the detailed cost savings associated with advancing the election one week?” Jaleski asked.
In his email to Bullock, he also noted that although he has no objections to moving the election date as long as it’s lawful, “there may be an advantage to the incumbents by doing so.”
Granger told the Longboat Observer there are no additional costs to draft the ordinance, because she will write it up herself during one of her 10-hour days at Town Hall.
She also explained that Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent’s office couldn’t handle the town’s election March 19. On Monday, Dent confirmed that explanation for the Longboat Observer.
“It’s in the town’s best interests to align its election when we are already holding three other elections a week earlier,” Dent said.
Bullock authorized town attorney David Persson to respond to Jaleski’s questions, and he explained the commission is “maximizing public notice and public input” by making the change through an ordinance. Persson explained the commission could have changed the date by a simple vote if it desired.
“I know of no negative legal ramifications from this action,” Persson wrote.
Commissioners also agreed to pay for early voting on the Key, after Granger submitted statistics showing that more residents took advantage of early voting when it was held on the Key rather than on the mainland.
It will cost the town $3,730 to pay for seven days of early voting at Town Hall.
Although it would save the town approximately $1,400 to hold early voting on the mainland, commissioners agreed to keep early voting on the Key.
“We should always make it easier for people to vote early,” said Commissioner Pat Zunz.
Longboat Key will have three commission races on the ballot in March.
With the qualification deadline complete, the following races are confirmed:
• Irwin Pastor will challenge incumbent Commissioner Terry Gans for the one-year, at-large seat.
• Gene Jaleski will challenge incumbent Phillip Younger for the two-year, at-large seat.
• Larry Grossman will challenge incumbent Mayor and District 4 Commissioner Jim Brown.
District 2 Commissioner Jack Duncan is running unopposed for his seat.