Representative's Reasons Lacking in Logic

Letters

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The vote on Siesta Key incorporation was 3 to 3. Those in favor of incorporation were Sen. Joe Gruters, Rep. Fiona McFarland and Rep. Michele Rayner. Thank you for your public service.  It was appreciated by all local voters and especially by those who heard the discussions.

Those who voted against incorporation were Rep. James Buchanan, Rep. Tommy Gregory, and Rep. Will Robinson.

One of the representatives made a suggestion so shockingly incompetent it needs to be revealed as a failure of democratic principles. Instead of allowing local citizens to vote on incorporation, they should send him petitions that totaled to 51% of the voting population. In a democracy, issues are decided by democratic ballots and not by written petitions.

When normal elections are held, there are formal polling places where voters can go to vote.  The time required for a voter to cast a ballot is only the time needed to reach the polling station and the time needed to cast a ballot.  In a geographically small community such as Siesta Key, voters probably only need about 1 hour to cast a ballot.  With a voting population of about 7,000, that means voting effort is approximately 7,000 hours on the part of voters plus additional time by volunteers who man the polling stations.

For petitions, there are no formal polling places although there were boxes at some local retail stores where petitions could be left. There were also volunteers who tried canvassing voters at public locations and by leaving blank petitions at various condos and public buildings. Some volunteers also went door to door in a few neighborhoods. Because Siesta Key is a seasonal community, not all residents were in town when the vote was held. Also, there is no effective way for volunteers to reach a majority of voters with petitions because of gated communities.  Therefore achieving a 51% majority via written petitions is logistically impossible since volunteers need to seek out voters rather than voters going to formal polling stations.

The human effort to reach 51% of voters using petitions would probably need at least 15 hours per successful, signed petition on the part of hundreds of volunteers who would stand outside of stores and in public locations asking for voters to fill out petitions, door-to-door efforts as well as electronic methods. The effort includes research, planning, mobilizing, educating, publicizing, distributing, organizing, meeting and countless other tasks.

As it happens, almost 2,500 petitions were in fact collected before the vote on Jan. 4, close to the maximum possible and a very successful campaign given Siesta Key’s population— not all of whom are registered voters.

In short, it is a mathematical impossibility to reach 51% of voters using petitions instead of ballots and for an elected representative to want to substitute written petitions for ballots is alarmingly incompetent and undemocratic.    

The human labor required to achieve a 51% majority of signed petitions would probably amount to at least 500 volunteers spending up to 15 hours per petition by using public locations: 7,500 hours of unpaid effort by volunteers who no doubt have jobs and families.

The suggestion to replace normal voting by signed petitions is the most incompetent statement that I have ever heard by an elected official. Why does he want to violate normal democratic procedures involving ballots that have worked for hundreds of years with a labor-intensive method that cannot possibly reach a majority of voters and does not even have any legal standing?

Sarasota is at considerable risk of bad laws and bad decisions due to the incompetence of suggestions such as replacing ballots with petitions by an elected official. 

As a question to the representative who asked for petitions, can he inform readers as to how many of Florida’s 500-plus incorporated communities required a majority of the voting population to file petitions?  Did Westlake use petitions in 2016?  Did Estero use petitions in 2014? Did Sarasota use petitions in 1902? Did St. Augustine use petitions in 1822?

In attendance, there were over 300 people in favor of incorporation and only one person opposed to incorporation. Anyone familiar with statistical sampling should know that a ratio of 300 to 1 indicates a majority of voters favor incorporation and therefore petitions would also favor incorporation.   

Hopefully, the three representative who voted against incorporation will be able to find jobs after the next election when they are turned out of office due to their poor performance and disservice to Siesta Key and Sarasota voters.

Capers Jones, vice president and chief technology officer of Namcook Analytics, is a resident of Siesta Key.

Image via Pixabay

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