Through a series of open houses, residents speak up about new districts.
After hosting five open houses in each of Sarasota County's districts, the county commission is set to select one or two redistricting maps to advertise during a public hearing on Oct. 7.
On Nov. 5, the commission will have a final public hearing and select a final map.
Although many community leaders contend the redistricting effort is necessary, some residents fear the new lines proposed by three separate redistricting maps will leave them disenfranchised or with less commission influence.
A crowd of about 20 gathered at one of the hearings at the Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Public Library. Some questioned the methodology of the process, while others wanted to know what district they could be moved into.
One such resident was Tom Matrullo who lives in Precinct 233, east of I-75 near Proctor Road. His precinct is currently in District 2, but it could could be moved in to District 1 in two of the three proposed maps.
“I just want to know why? What is the reasoning behind taking this neighborhood, which is a very densely populated neighborhood with over 1,600 homes and bumping it into another district,” Matrullo said.
District 2, which encompasses Longboat Key and much of Sarasota city, is the smallest district in the county with a population of 79,590, according to data from the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The largest district in terms of population is District 5, with 89,825 people.
That is a spread of 12.3% between District 2 and District 5, putting the county over the constitutional limit of 10%.
Kurt Spitzer, the consultant hired to analyze the boundaries, said the goal of these redrawn plans was to ensure all five districts have as close to the same amount of people as possible. A 2018 BEBR analysis shows the county’s population at 417,442, so the ideal districts would have 83,488 people in each.
District 1 resident Pat Rounds expressed concerns that parts of District 1 being shifted into District 2 could disenfranchise voters.
The 2020 election will mark the first time voters will cast ballots in single-member districts. In the past, all Sarasota County residents could vote for every commissioner, but now, only people who live in a certain district can cast a ballot for the candidates running in those districts.
Commissioner Michael Moran holds the District 1 seat, but is up for re-election in 2020. However, Christian Ziegler, who is the District 2 commissioner is not up for re-election until 2022.
“These people were expecting to decide who their commissioner was going to be next year, not two years from now,” Rounds said. “If one of these solutions is chosen, these people will be disenfranchised from voting for county commissioner for two years. That’s a problem.”
Some argued that the districts aren’t compact enough. Spitzer said none of the alternatives have bizarre or “serpentine shapes.”