BRADENTON – Newly released records in a court case involving Florida's congressional and legislative redistricting show that an aide to former House Speaker Dean Cannon released Congressional maps to a GOP operative weeks before they were made available to the public.
The records are being used in a legal battle over whether legislators followed the 2010 Fair District reforms when they drew the latest districting maps. They include a May deposition of Republican political consultant Marc Reichelderfer, along with emails from to Reichelderfer in late 2011 from Cannon's aide, Kirk Pepper.
The Fair Districts groups, which includes the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause, argue that lawmakers still drew the maps to favor Republican candidates. They are now trying to secure more emails and testimony from party consultants, legislators and staff.
The Legislature is fighting attempts to gather such evidence. Fair Districts passed as a constitutional amendment referendum by almost 63 percent of the vote. It prohibits legislators from re-districting in a way that would intentionally help or hurt incumbents or parties and instructs them to keep communities whole whenever possible.
Last week, Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis pushed back the trial from August until as late as December or January 2014, after Fair Districts argued that the delays over getting records would prevent the case from properly being prepared in time.
The Legislature then argued that the delay of the trial could impact the 2014 elections, as potential candidates would be uncertain that the current maps would remain intact.