Change the Date represents core Democratic Party principle



I am a Democrat. The national platform of the Democratic party says this:

“It is a core principle of the Democratic Party to maximize voter participation for all Americans. Our democracy suffers when nearly two thirds of our citizens do not or cannot participate, as in the last midterm elections. Democrats believe we must make it easier to vote, not harder.”

I believe in this core principle and embrace it. This belief is why I am the co-chair of the Change the Date initiative to change the date of the city commission elections to fall to coincide with federal, state and county elections. It will double to triple voter turnout.

As it stands now, only about 20 percent participate in our elections in the spring of odd years. Changing the date of the city elections will make it so 50 to 70 percent of registered voters participate in city commission elections.

I believe in this initiative and so do several on both sides of the political aisle. 

The establishment is nervous. Nervous that they will lose power, nervous that the commission will become more accountable to a wider and more diverse electorate, and nervous that their elitist views will no longer dominate the discussion.

We are not the only ones who are making this progressive change. Bradenton has already made the change to fall elections, North Port has fall elections and Gainesville is in the process of changing their city charter for fall elections.

In Gainesville, similar to efforts here in Sarasota, the business community has teamed with community leaders to lead this effort. Just like Sarasota, the Gainesville effort has been endorsed by ACLU of Florida. In Gainesville, the Democratic Party has wrapped their arms around this effort because it matches the Party core principles exactly. 

There are no legitimate factual arguments against this from the establishment. Giving up control of the canvassing board is the only argument they can cobble together, yet this wasn’t an issue when we put city charter issues on the ballot in November 2012 and the county canvassing board oversaw that election without issue.

Then, there is the argument of November commission races not getting the attention from the electorate on the ballot. First, unlike our opposition, I believe our overall electorate is smart and understands city issues and candidates.

Second, if this initiative, which is the last item on the ballot, is any measure, we won’t have any problem. There have been live forums, countless news articles and columns, TV coverage and lots of social media discussions. We aren’t going to have an attention problem, just like North Port and Bradenton have no problems with attention to their city races.

So finally, in a last desperate effort to come up with some reason, they have resorted to attacking select Change the Date Sarasota partners in a tribalistic manner to justify their position. If you can’t attack the issue, attack the people. Well, at least some of them.

I have confidence in the electorate that they will see through the ad hominem attacks and lack of oppositional substance. Join this rare, bi-partisan, diverse and unified group to increase voter turnout in city elections. Change the Date Sarasota! Vote Yes on the city charter amendment!

Suzanne Atwell is co-chair of Change the Date Sarasota and former Mayor of the City of Sarasota.

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