Where The Votes Are: High Turnover



The most recent Sarasota City Election attracted a higher turnout of Sarasota voters than any municipal contest in the city over the last decade, but there still were more than 1,100 voters who cast ballots in March who stayed home in May. Those lost voters were offset by more than 2,500 voters in the runoff who didn’t vote in March, so in total there was a turnover of 3,700 voters among the nearly 8,500 who elected new Commissioners Hagen Brody and Jennifer Ahearn-Koch.

The findings were discussed at SRQ’s most recent Where The Votes Are presentation in Sarasota on Tuesday. A plurality of the 2,507 new voters were Democrats and 951 were Republicans. The election also marked a substantial surge in voters in their 60s and female voters.

Political professionals at the event say the high turnover creates challenges for campaigns in the city, where tracking voter trends becomes difficult. “In this past March election, roughly 60 percent of the voters who actually voted compared to four years ago were new and had no comparable races they voted in to compare to,” says Jeffrey Carman, campaign manager for Martin Hyde, who finished third in the May election. “It is a guess to determine who might vote when, for example, there were 4,700 new voters and only 4,200 voters who voted in previous City elections, and of this group, even less had voted in the most 'like election' four years ago.” He noted the city election in 2013 was the last 'like election' as it was the last citywide, at-large contest, different from major presidential elections or the district elections in 2015.

For now-Commissioner Ahearn-Koch, the study of turnout proved interesting. “The most exciting thing was seeing how many more voted,” she says. The reasons that occurred were open to interpretation, and discussion at the event pointed at a variety of matters including party involvement. “But at the end of the day, in my gut, it’s because we were talking about some very important issues—homelessness, traffic—and I think the voters were getting out there, saying this is a way to weigh in on something important.”

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