– Decide the Date Sarasota, a grassroots, bipartisan petition campaign, has succeeded in collecting the required number of petitions to ask city voters, on a November referendum ballot, whether they desire to change the date of City Commission elections to coincide with federal, state, county, and district elections.
“City elections currently take place in March and May of odd-numbered years when no other elections are held. A great majority of Sarasota residents don’t know when to vote,” says Decide the Date Sarasota co-chair and former Sarasota Mayor Suzanne Atwell. “The goal of this initiative is simple: Let Sarasota city voters decide in a November election if it makes sense to hold local elections at the same time as county, state, and federal primary and general elections.”
The Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections has officially validated 4,732 petitions and transmitted the certification of the validation to the Sarasota City Clerk. Decide the Date Sarasota gathered 996 petitions over the 3,736 petitions required for the certification. The petitions were turned in to the Supervisor of Elections in five months, one month prior to the six-month certification deadline provided in the City Charter.
The City Clerk will present the validation to the City Commission and the matter will be set for a public hearing process to adopt an ordinance setting the election date for the referendum.
Supporters of the campaign include the Sarasota NAACP, The Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, The Argus Foundation, the Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU, Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, ACLU Florida, The Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee, the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association and many others. Aligning city elections to coincide with state and federal elections in August and November of even-numbered years would dramatically increase voter turnout and save about $100,000 per election.
“Voter turnout for spring city elections is notoriously abysmal,” says longtime Sarasota resident Larry Eger, elected public defender for the 12th Judicial Circuit and co-chair of the Decide the Date Sarasota initiative. “Having surpassed the required number of signatures by such a large margin in so little time speaks to the popularity of giving Sarasota voters a choice as to when they want to hold their elections. We look forward to voters deciding this issue this November.”
For more information, including proposed language to amend the Charter of the City of Sarasota, as well as FAQs, visit www.DecideTheDate.com.