In the 2020 election, some, but not all, South Sarasota County voters will get to cast ballots for County Commissioner Nancy Detert of Venice, if she runs for re-election.

None will have the opportunity to weigh in on County Commissioner Mike Moran, if he runs again.

That’s because Moran occupies a North County seat and every voter outside his district will be sitting in the bleachers as North County-only voters decide that seat.

That is the result of Tuesday’s referendum, which passed by a percentage split of roughly 60-40. And it’s one of the reasons we opposed the switch from county-wide commission voting to single-member district elections. As it stands now, each voter now gets to mark ballots for five members of the board that directs a county of 420,000 residents.

In the future, they’ll have one-fifth the direct power.

The county charter change may diminish the influence of big money – especially development-community money – in County Commission campaigns in the future. That was the primary argument of activists who brought this to the ballot by petition. The logical take-away Tuesday was voters agreed.

The new system should give locally centered candidates a better shot. It should make commissioners more responsive to home district needs. It may finally, after 50 years, bring a Democrat to the commission, since Moran’s North County seat slightly favors Democrats.

But we suspect it will also bring a new ethic of provincialism: Replacing what is generally an all-in-it-together approach with an overt us-versus-them. That would mean more politics by pork-and-horse-trading. It could bring a tendency for commissioners to overlook needs of the county at large in order to cover their rears with the home base.

It may also mean more money spent on elections, cumulatively.

And then there’s the reality that voters elect one commissioner, not five. Which seems curious math on the path toward 60 percent approval.


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