BRADENTON – Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Michael Bennett will officially present his precinct consolidation plan at today's BOCC meeting. The plan would reduce the county's overall number of election precincts from 99 to 69, which Bennett claims will be offset by the increase in early voting locations (to which voters are increasingly migrating), which will grow from one to four.
Bennett claims in his letter to the board that the consolidation reflects voting trends, in which less voters are voting at a polling place on election day in favor of other methods, like early voting and absentee ballots. He also claims that poll workers are getting harder to find and that fewer sites will mean that the best poll workers will be chosen, while also saving money by reducing the amount of what has been increasingly expensive polling equipment that the county will need to buy.
Before being elected SOE in 2012, Bennett termed out as a member of the Florida Senate. His consolidation plan has already drawn criticism from the Manatee County Democratic Party, who noted in a press release that while in the legislature, Bennett was a strong supporter of recent election reforms that reduced the number of early voting days, and is also on record as saying he felt that the state should be making it harder, rather than easier for people to vote.
"I don't have a problem making it harder (to vote)," Bennett, who is a Republican, said of HB1355 at the time. "I want the people in the state of Florida to want to vote as badly as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life. This should not be easy.”
(click here to download PDF of Bennett's letter and maps of proposed polling location changes).