SMART Districts – A Bright Idea

lamp-311114__340Ahhh….very interesting.  There’s a new citizen’s organization exploring the idea of single-member districts for the county commission.  So what the heck does that mean?

Right now each of the county commissioners is elected by voters county-wide.  That is, they are elected “at-large”.  Every voter in the county may vote for all five county commissioners.  Put simply, voters in Key West can vote for the commissioner who represents Key Largo and vice versa.

The at-large system sounds okay in theory, but the problem is that sometimes a district gets saddled with a commissioner that they do not want and does not represent them effectively.

Single-member districts mean that each commissioner is elected by voters from within their district only.  This ensures that each district is able to elect a commissioner that truly represents them.  And if that commissioner can’t get the job done, they can elect someone who can.

I’ve mentioned before that none of the taxpayers are well served by Monroe County government.  That $53 million pointlessly squandered on Cudjoe Regional?  It certainly doesn’t help Key Largo or Key West, Marathon or Islamorada.  The great irony is that the folks in Cudjoe Regional aren’t even satisfied.  All they wanted was truthful information.  They never got it.  Something needs to change.  There’s no doubt about it.

Here is more information, including a link to SMARTDistricts.org.

SMART DISTRICT ORGANIZATION FORMED

A county-wide SMART DISTRICT organization has been formed to provide educational resources for residents and voters to learn more about Single-Member Districts.  Originally, the county had Single-Member Districts, and the SMART District organization would like to see the county return to Single-Member Districts – bringing your county government back home to the local level.

At-Large Election Method:  Monroe County residents elect BOCC Commissioners at an At-Large method.  At-Large Districts allow Monroe County voters to cast votes for all open BOCC seats.  The County is divided into five districts.  Candidates running for County Commission are required to live within a specific-designated geographical area called a “district”.  Currently Commissioners are elected for a specific District; however, they are elected by the total cumulative votes cast by Monroe County voters.

Single-Member District Election Method:  With a Single-Member District method, commissioners would only be elected by the voters in their specific-designated District.

If you ask a current county commissioner about At-Large vs. Single-Member Districts, they will explain to you how everyone’s vote counts, and yes, everyone’s vote does counts. However, with a Single-Member District your vote holds 400 percent more weight.  Your vote is not diluted between the 4 other district’s voters who may know very little about important issues within your district. Single-Member District representation makes sure that all persons living within any district will clearly understand who their advocate is when it comes to dealing with Monroe County Government matters and provide the best in constituent representation and service.

How Did This Happen?  Originally the Keys were structured as Single-Member Districts.  In the early 80’s  a sitting Key West Commissioner introduced a motion to change the election process from a Single-Member District to an At-Large District.

What Are the Benefits of a Single-Member District?  The most important benefit is that it provides residents and voters with more control over local community issues because a Single-Member District provides stronger local community representation at the County level and maximizes elected officials accountability with their constituents.  Other benefits include promoting the opportunity for more one-on-one discussions with elected officials, enhancing minority representation, encouraging more people to seek local elected office and assuring your BOCC Commissioner’s priority is “YOU”!  Local control is the “Right Thing to Do” and “Now is the Right Time!

How Can the County Change Back to a Single-Member District?  Florida Statute 124 created by the legislature provides electors from within a county to determine how they elect their County representatives.  There are several ways to change from At-Large District to a Single District.  The simplest way is for the Commissioners to request a referendum be placed on the ballot to change back to a Single District from an At-Large District.  The second is to start a petition to have the proposed change placed on the ballot.  This method requires 10% of the voter’s signatures in Monroe County (approximately 6,000 signatures).  Once the signatures are obtained, the referendum will be placed on the next available election cycle ballot for the voters of Monroe County to determine how they would like their Commissioners selected to represent them.

For more information, you may visit the website www.SMARTDistricts.org, search SMART Districts on Facebook  or email us at info@smartdistricts.org.

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