STATE ASKS JUDGE TO TOSS SENATE MAP CHALLENGE

BRANDON LARRABEE | THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA | 12/19/2012

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 19, 2012.......Lawyers for the Legislature asked a Leon County judge on Wednesday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to scrap the current districts for the Senate because the Florida Supreme Court had already rejected a challenge to the lines.

The dispute, in a case filed by a group of citizens and a coalition of voting rights groups against the Senate map, plows new ground and could set a standard in a redistricting environment altered by the approval in 2010 of the "Fair Districts" amendments aimed at ending gerrymandered districts.

Courts have already been forced to grapple with several new issues after lawmakers' first effort, earlier this year, to follow the rules during the once-a-decade redistricting process.

At issue in this case is a statement the constitution makes in a different section about the Supreme Court's automatic review of legislative redistricting maps: "A judgment of the supreme court of the state determining the apportionment to be valid shall be binding upon all the citizens of the state."

The motion to dismiss the challenge to Senate districts would not affect a similar effort to overturn the current maps for the state's congressional delegation because those plans are not reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Because justices approved a second draft of the Senate map — they voided the first draft — in April, attorneys for the House and Senate said Wednesday there was no room for new challenges.

"There is not a case anywhere to refute the notion that the Florida Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction over redistricting matters as it relates to the requirements in the state constitution," said George Meros, who represented the House during Wednesday's arguments.

The groups challenging the map, though, said the Supreme Court's review is meant only to handle "facial" challenges to the map that are easy to detect. More fact intensive challenges can still be heard later, said Adam Schachter, an attorney for the map's opponents.

Schachter said a full-fledged trial on the Senate maps could turn up evidence that the Supreme Court wasn't able to recover, and could prove that lawmakers broke the new constitutional standards that bar lawmakers from twisting lines for political or personal advantage.

Those kinds of challenges have to be heard to enforce the Fair Districts standards, he said.

"If it doesn't happen here, it won't happen," Schachter said. "And that means that amendment, which the citizens have made the law of this land, will be nothing more than words on a page."

Lewis said he would try to rule on the state's motion soon.


GOP use of strawmen to submit redistricting maps focus of unsealed testimony

11/25/2014
Lawyers challenging the legality of Florida's congressional districts focused on the use of "strawmen" to submit proposed maps when they questioned GOP political consultant Pat Bainter about the Legislature's 2012 redistricting process, according to testimony in the case unsealed Tuesday.

The lawyers for groups challenging the redrawn congressional districts stressed the fact that third parties were recruited to submit maps drawn by GOP political consultants like Data Targeting, Bainter's company. read more »

Redistricting records GOP-led process was an illusion

11/25/2014
TALLAHASSEE - Long before the first public maps were released, critics say Florida Republican political operatives were creating an illusion of non-partisanship over the once-a-decade redistricting process witha wink and a nudge toward their collaborators in the Legislature.

That illusion was outed Tuesday when the Florida Supreme Court released thousands of pages of emails, testimony and sealed court records related to the GOP political consulting firm Data Targeting, which was at the center of the two-year legal fight over lawmakers' attempts to implement anti-gerrymandering reforms passed by voters. read more »

Florida Supreme Court unseals documents on districts

11/25/2014
TALLAHASSEE - The extent that Republican consultants went to influence Florida's redrawing of congressional and legislative districts was placed into public view on Tuesday by the Florida Supreme Court.

The high court officially unsealed hundreds of pages of emails and documents, as well as court testimony that had been given behind closed doors by one consultant from Gainesville. read more »

Records Show Broad Effort To Funnel Maps Through Public

11/25/2014
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — The Florida Supreme Court released records Tuesday that gave more insight into an alleged plan by Republican political consultants to funnel maps through the public.

The effort itself is not a surprise; revelations at a redistricting trial about a map submitted under the name of former Florida State University student Alex Posada had already indicated some maps submitted through the Legislature's system to gather public ideas were not drawn by the people whose names were attached to them. read more »

9 Investigates: High cost of Florida redistricting lawsuits

11/10/2014
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —The Florida Legislature has spent more than $6 million on outside legal counsel fighting congressional redistricting.

According to records obtained from the Florida House of Representatives and Florida Senate, the two chambers have spent a combined $6,222,655.93 in its lawsuits with groups including the League of Women Voters.


read more »

In Congress, it's sweet to be an incumbent

11/05/2014
Ask the Average Joe or Josephine what they think about Washington — and they will tell you that Congress is full of hacks who need to be thrown out of office.

Yet, do you know how many incumbents Central Florida booted this week?

Zero.

That's right, not a one. read more »