The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting new accusations that Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent influenced charter review board candidate Kathy Bolam’s decision to concede last Wednesday, after primary results indicated she had lost her bid by just over 100 votes. The narrowness of that margin would have triggered an automatic recount, if Bolam had not conceded.
Bolam says Dent told her Wednesday morning that a recount was unlikely to change the outcome of the race and that “the election staff would have to work all weekend if there was a recount.”
Dent has long been a controversial figure in Suncoast politics.
In 2006, her office recorded an unusually large undervote in that year’s hotly contested congressional race between Democrat Christine Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. Eighteen thousand Sarasota County residents did not choose a candidate in that race; the final margin in favor of Buchanan was just over 300 votes. Despite widespread accusations that the county’s voting system failed, the results were never officially revisited, although a grassroots political movement did spring up to demand the use of voting machines that leave a paper trail.
After Bolam’s concession last Wednesday, she rethought her position, and unsuccessfully attempted to retract her email later in the day. The Sarasota County Canvassing Board ruled today that no recount will take place. Dent, a canvassing board member, cast the deciding vote.
Bolam told the Herald-Tribune she would file a complaint with the Florida Division of Elections. Whether the complaint will have an impact on how Sarasota’s November elections are conducted remains to be seen.