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Opinion
Sarasota Thursday, Jun. 13, 2019 5 months ago

Apparently, it's OK when Democrats use voter registration

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Debate goes on over County Commission's plan to draw new districts.
by: Matt Walsh Editor & CEO

This is priceless.

A few outspoken Sarasota Democrats are throwing darts at the all-Republican Sarasota County commissioners for considering the idea of redrawing commission districts this year instead of waiting until 2021 after the 2020 census.

This is a prickly issue because the commission is faced with this dilemma: Sarasota County voters decisively voted in November 2018 to create five single-member districts.

Unfortunately, the ballot wording didn’t specify when the redrawing of districts should occur. State statutes say such redrawing can occur only in odd years. 

So the questions are: Redraw now, or wait until 2021? And if now, what numbers should be used — voter registration, other population data?

One reason Democrats want to wait until after the official census is they expect population data to favor their winning the District 1 seat held by Commissioner Mike Moran. Democrats are worried that if the districts are redrawn now, Republicans will gerrymander Moran’s district to assure his reelection.

Some history might help: This is not a precedent. County commissions drew new districts nine times from 1979 through 1995, all in the years after county elections and without waiting for census results. 

But here’s the priceless part: Democrats are throwing darts at Republicans about not being transparent on this process and protesting the use of any numbers other than new census data.

Interesting. 

Now take a look at the accompanying memo. In January 2017, School Board Member Shirley Brown, a Democrat, personally asked board attorney Art Hardy to figure out how to redraw the school district boundaries. 

It just so happened that Brown and her husband had purchased and moved into a home a year earlier outside of Brown’s district, which, according to state law, would have disqualified her from serving on the board. 

But lo and behold, the board adopted newly drawn districts, with Brown’s district now including her new residence. 

And the kicker? The district used voter registration numbers, not the census.

There wasn’t a peep of a protest or a news story anywhere — about transparency or drawing districts to favor a board member.

Brown explained: “When my house in the Lakes became available again, I saw that it was no longer in District 4; the district lines in the area were confusing and unequal. I worked with Art to put my house in the Lakes back in my district, clean up the lines and more evenly distribute the population.”

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