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Option for single-member districts will be on Alachua County ballots this November

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - For as long as most Alachua County residents can remember, they’ve always voted for all five county commissioners, but that could change.

Governor DeSantis signed HB 1493, which puts single-member districts on the November ballot. Residents can either vote for it, or vote to keep the at-large system.

If they vote for it, residents will only be able to vote for a candidate who lives in their district.

RELATED STORY: Bill that would put single-member districts on Alachua County ballots passes in the Senate

One woman who lives in East Gainesville said she thinks single-member districts would better address the issues her community faces.

“We need some grocery stores out here we need more housing, everything like that,” said Glorious Mix.

If the people vote for single-member districts, many feel it could give Republicans a better shot at holding a seat on the county commission.

A few months ago county commissioners went to Tallahassee to lobby against this bill, saying it’s not what the people want.

“I anticipate and hope that most voters will go ahead and vote ‘no’ and tell Tallahassee to let Alachua County to govern Alachua County,” said Ken Cornell, Alachua County Commissioner.

Bill sponsor, State Rep. Chuck Clemons of Newberry, said he fought to get this on the ballot so the decision could be up to the people.

Cornell said him and the other commissioners spoke out against it, because Clemons bringing the issue to the state’s capital goes against the county’s charter.

“We think this (at-large system) is the best form of government. We know that 41 of the 67 counties also believe that,” said Cornell.

TV 20 asked Clemons if he’d be willing to take this kind of action for residents in Dixie or Gilchrist counties, being as they vote in at-large systems as well.

He said, “absolutely of course I would, but not one particular soul not one voter not one citizen in those two counties have even raised the spector of the same type of issue.”

Despite county commissioners lobbying against this bill, now that it’s law, they’re going to have to educate people on this ballot item without being partial, per HB 921.

That law prohibits local governments from using public funds to engage in political communications.

They can, however, provide factual information about the ballot item.

“I think that if Alachua County commissioners use one penny of tax dollars to try to sway the opinion of the citizens, they’re going to have a challenge with this new law that was passed,” said Clemons. “It was passed directly because of the efforts of Alachua County.”

Residents can vote on this ballot item in the November 8th election.

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