Early voting started March 10 in Sarasota County, and hundreds of eager voters have already cast their ballots for new Longboat Key town commissioners and extra school funding.
About 31,000 voters across Sarasota County have voted on the school tax referendum so far.
In Longboat Key, 318 voters had either cast in-person ballots or mail-in ballots from the Manatee County side of the island; 1,021 in total from the Sarasota County side of the island. Voters there are deciding three Town Commission races, along with a new charter and a bond-issue to finance fire station renovations.
The school referendum adds an extra 1-mill property tax to give funding to schools — about $56 million. The tax has been in place since 2002, and must be renewed every four years. Similarly, voters in Manatee County are voting on its school district's first 1-mill optional tax.
As of end of day on March 11, 1,300 had cast their vote on the Sarasota school tax referendum during the early voting period, which goes through March 17.
Additionally, more than 30,000 vote-by-mail ballots have been returned and accepted by the Supervisor of Elections, out of the almost 60,000 requested ballots.
Voters can continue to request mail-in ballots until March 14, and they must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections office by 7 p.m. March 20.
So far, of the 300,000 registered voters in Sarasota County, there has been a nearly 10% turnout for this election. In 2014, there was a 16% voter turnout — the lowest since the tax was first introduced.
In 2014, the referendum passed with 77% of the vote.