Equality of Representation Within Sarasota County, With The Counties Push To Redistrict
I was watching/listening to the City of Venice regular meeting where Holic did bring it up. In a 5 -2 vote, they will send the county a letter asking for the logic behind redistricting. If they do not hear back form the county, then they will send a letter asking the county to hold off until after the 2020 Census. Francesco
From: Gabriel Hament <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Monday, June 10, 2019 11:25:49 PM
To: City Council
Cc: Ziegler Bridget; Carrie Seidman; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; School Board Members; Kindra Muntz; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Joe Gruters; email@example.com; Barber, Pat; DUBIN BARRY; Gardner Pat; Corcoran Mitsi; Bowden Todd; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; Griffith Kevin; firstname.lastname@example.org; Susan Nilon; Michael Barfield; Ray Collins; Jacob Ogles; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Charlie Kennedy; email@example.com; Matt Walsh; Emily Walsh; JoAnne DeVries; Thomas.Barwin@sarasotafl.gov; Robert.Fournier@sarasotagov.com; Marlon Brown; David Conway; Harold.Bubil@heraldtribune.com; Jack Brill; Trevor Harvey (firstname.lastname@example.org); email@example.com; Newt.Newton@myfloridahouse.gov
Subject: Equality of Representation
In a guest opinion-editorial published in Sunday’s Herald Tribune, Acting Chair of the Republican Party of Sarasota, Jack Brill, asserted that an imbalance in the quantity of registered voters (emphasis added) across the existing five County Commission districts–specifically District 1 (north county; 56,000 registered voters) and District 5 (Englewood/Venice areas; 75,000 registered voters)–legally compels the current Commission to re-draw district boundaries to equalize the number of registered voters in each district. Brill cites state statute: ″(a) Five county commissioners shall reside one in each of five county commission districts, the districts together covering the entire county and as nearly equal in population (emphasis added) as practicable; and each commissioner shall be nominated and elected only by the qualified electors who reside in the same county commission district as the commissioner.”
In his proposed method of drawing of political maps, Brill inserted an infrequently used unit of analysis–the registered voter. The opinion-editorial fails to provide any legal link reconciling “population” as enumerated in state statute, with “registered voter”, a measurement device that even differs from the “voter-eligible population” metric. Is apportionment based on the “registered voter” a commonly used unit of analysis in the redistricting of state legislative districts and municipalities across Florida?
The trouble with basing a map re-drawing process on “registered voter” statistics is that particular demographics, who are guaranteed equal protection by way of the 14th Amendment go uncounted, children in particular. I will also mention convicted non-violent felons, who have paid their debt to society, but have fallen victim to one of the more prominent and institutionalized vestiges of the Jim Crow South–the state clemency board. Despite Amendment 4 passing overwhelmingly, the state Legislature, as we learned at Tiger Bay last week, continues to disregard and water down the voters’ intent with “implementing language.”
Although the United States Supreme Court, through the partial dissenting opinions penned by Justices Alito and Thomas in Evenwel v. Abbott, Governor of Texas, did not find unconstitutional boundary drawing based on voter eligible population figures, the majority opinion (7-2) cited overwhelming historical and constitutional references which favor employing total population as the preferred map-drawing metric:
- “As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible to vote. Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates and in receiving constituent services. By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total-population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation.”
- Endorsing apportionment based on total population, Alexander Hamilton declared: “There can be no truer principle than this—that every individual of the community at large has an equal right to the protection of government.”
- As the Framers of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment comprehended, representatives serve all residents, not just those eligible or registered to vote. Nonvoters have an important stake in many policy debates—children, their parents, even their grandparents, for example, have a stake in a strong public-education system—and in receiving constituent services, such as help navigating public-benefits bureaucracies. By ensuring that each representative is subject to requests and suggestions from the same number of constituents, total population apportionment promotes equitable and effective representation.”
- “As an abstract proposition,” argued Representative James G. Blaine, a leading critic of allocating House seats based on voter population, “no one will deny that population is the true basis of representation; for women, children, and other non-voting classes may have as vital an interest in the legislation of the country as those who actually deposit the ballot.”
Now, back to Brill.
Brill then casts the citizen-driven petition gathering initiative and subsequent persuasion campaign as a “ploy” by the Democratic Party “…to get one or maybe two commission seats, since they have not been able to win countywide in generations.” I will first address the Acting Chairman’s assessment of the Single Member District initiative. I agree that one goal driving the initiative was the thought that a Democratic or NPA candidate could win a seat in one, if not two, of the districts north of Clark Road. Those districts are purple. After a half century, having more than one party represented on the Commission would probably be a good thing.
It is clear the ultimate result at the ballot box indicated that support for the initiative extended far beyond the Democratic Party. Approximately 60% of the November General Election voters said “Yes” (115,896; 59.84%) with 40% voting “No” (77,767; 40.16%). Despite the well-financed opposition committee (STOP! Stealing Our Votes) pouring $155,000 into the final stretch, thousands of voters from both parties approved the county charter amendment. Current Commissioners should interpret this overwhelming result as a referendum on the general direction and policy orientation of the Commission. Right-leaning NPA and moderate Republican voters–the very bloc that dictates county electoral outcomes–were likely those who disregarded the directives contained in the sample ballot of the local Republican Party. The same occurred in the City of Sarasota; despite heavy campaigning by the local Democratic Party, thousands of Democrats agreed that aligning City elections with the regular cycle makes sense. Although much credit is due to the successful Single District and Change the Date campaign teams, the contests weren’t even close. No amount of money, superior messaging or political strategy would have derailed either effort. Public opinion was set long before the questions were presented to the voters.
As Carrie Siedman made clear in her editorial, “According to the most recent available data, all five Sarasota county districts still lie within the 10% or less range in population discrepancy set by the Supreme Court as the threshold for representing “one person, one vote.”
Meaning, there is no need to re-draw maps until the 2020 census has been completed.
The County Commission should heed the message sent to them in 2018 and channel their efforts and our tax dollars into productive uses such as setting the groundwork to aid in diversifying the regional economy to complement the highly-cyclical industries of tourism/hospitality and building construction with biotech, financial services and film production. Their political energy is being foolishly spent on satisfying an entrenched donor class whose power is slowly diminishing as the next generation begins to develop their own unique vision for the future. I urge the County Commission to re-focus on sustainable economic development, and end this disappointing chapter of cartographic chicanery.
Tomorrow morning it is all eyes on the Venice City Council as they courageously discuss taking a position on this issue.