Politicians eye turnout to decide on resources

Posted at 5:36 PM, Mar 14, 2016

As you cast your ballot, you can bet local politicians are watching what areas have the highest voter turnout.  Take it from former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

"Listen if you're running for office and you're like me you study the map, you look at those color shades," said Sharpe, executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance. "You look at where there's a high concentration, low concentration."

The I-Team took Hillsborough County election data from 2012 and 2014 and created a map. Green marks the areas with high voter turnout, red for the low. We found Sun City Center has the highest voter turnout, The USF University area ranks the lowest.

Sarah Combs runs the University Area Community Development Corporation.

"Well I think it's a perfect example of voter turnout versus resources," she said.

Comb is telling people in her community their vote means more than the election.

"It's so extremely important because we all know the communities that vote and have a high voter turnout get a lot more attention and resources."

Sharpe agrees.

"The low turnout tends to be the areas where there's neglect," he said. 

Let's compare. David Floyd is the president of the Sun City Center Community Association.

"We're an older community," he said. "We're over 55. And older folks tend to vote in higher percentages than young folks, so I'm sure that's a good bit of what's going on."

Back to the university area, just driving around there is a noticeable difference in roads, sidewalks and infrastructure.

"Your vote as a region helps to shape the conversation when you got finite resources that your dealing with in infrastructure," Sharpe said.

Both he and Combs are trying to get more voter participation in the university area. With the high populations of students and renters, an area formerly labeled "suitcase city" getting out the vote can be a challenge.

"Our opportunity is to create that stability and that's what we're working on," Sharpe said.

"I think that if we're able to change that," Combs said. "We'll be able to get better collective and collaborative partnerships with those individuals and bring more resources to the community."

Follow Investigator Jarrod Holbrook on Twitter @jarrodholbrook