House looks to cast voters' groups as shills for Florida Democrats

John Kennedy | Palm Beach Post | 09/22/2015

Voters’ groups which successfully challenged the Legislature’s congressional redistricting map won a new round this week when the Florida Supreme Court refused to order that they produce potentially damaging details on how they came up with alternate proposals for the state’s 27 district boundaries.

But a witness list submitted by the House in advance of a scheduled Thursday lower court hearing on the map-making suggests that attorneys for the Republican-led Legislature will continue to press that alternate maps submitted by voters’ groups were drawn intentionally to help the Democratic Party and its candidates.

The Legislature has had two maps declared unconstitutional last year and this summer by courts because they were drawn to help Republicans.

Much of the House’s defense of a map it has submitted for court approval appears likely to involve casting doubt about the constitutionality of the four alternative sets of boundaries turned in by voters’ groups.

The Supreme Court late Monday ruled 5-2 against a request from House attorneys that they be allowed to seek more documents and testimony on whether the voters’ groups maps were crafted with the help of state and national Democratic officials.

Justices gave no reason for the denial.

But the same day, House attorneys gave Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis a lengthy roster of potential witnesses for Thursday’s hearing.

Many listed as having already provided depositions in the case are Democratic officials or experts involved in the construction of the four maps submitted to Lewis by the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a group of Democratic-allied voters dubbed the Romo plaintiffs.

Among them are Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party, Dave Beattie, a party consultant, Andrew Dreschler, with Strategic Telemetry, which helped draw the league’s three maps, and Ellen Friedin, who led the 2010 campaign that resulted in Florida voters approving anti-gerrymandering constitutional amendments.

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