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Residents protest Sarasota County commission redistricting

A lawsuit was filed in federal court stating county commissioners discriminated against black voters when they approved the redistricting map.

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  • | 2:25 p.m. December 13, 2019
Several residents gathered in Phillippi Estate Park to protest the county's redistricting map.
Several residents gathered in Phillippi Estate Park to protest the county's redistricting map.
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More than 30 people lined both sides of U.S. 41 at Phillippi Estate Park on Friday carrying signs that read "No racism" and "No flawed map." 

They were protesting the Sarasota County Commission's decision to redraw districts ahead of the 2020 census with a map that was not drawn by the county-hired consultant, and instead drawn by political activist and former Sarasota GOP chairman Bob Waechter.

Several of the protestors said they had beem disenfranchised and discriminated against because of the map. The new redistricting map moves Sarasota's Newtown neighborhood and thousands of black voters, from District 1 into District 2 and adds Republican voters to District 1. 

Now that the county has switched to single member districts, the move means that Newtown voters won't vote until 2022, which Newtown resident Ruby Robinson said isn't fair.

"This is high-class slavery. They took our voice to vote and with it our freedoms," Robinson said. "This is supposed to be the land of the free and home of the brave, instead it's turning into the land of the slaves." 

Commission candidate Fredd Atkins, who was challenging incumbent Michael Moran for the District 1 seat in the 2020 elections, won't be in the election mix until 2022. 

Atkins and two other Newtown residents who were moved out of District 1 into District 2 — Mary Mack and Michael White — filed a federal lawsuit that accuses Moran and commissioners Alan Maio and Nancy Detert of "depriving thousands of African-American voters living in the Newtown community of the right to vote in the 2020 election." 

Both the lawsuit and the protestors were hoping to rectify the redistricting a restore Newtown residents' right to vote in the 2020 election. 

"We want to show the commission that we're mad as hell and we're not taking it anymore," Atkins said. 

Commissioners, who were having their annual retreat in the Edson Keith Mansion in Phillippi Estate Park, said they would not comment on open litigation. 







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