New documents are raising questions about whether Florida legislators ignored rules intended to prevent political parties and incumbents from influencing the once-a-decade process of redistricting. Emails show that top Republican Party of Florida officials met in late 2010 to “brainstorm” redistricting with political consultants and legislative employees involved in drawing new districts for Congress and the Legislature. That was just a few weeks after voters overwhelmingly adopted the “Fair Districts” constitutional amendments that set new standards for redistricting and were intended to remove partisanship from the politically charged job of creating new maps. The Associated Press requested the documents after they were presented in a court hearing last week. Several groups have filed lawsuits seeking to have a court throw out the maps eventually adopted for both Congress and the Florida Senate.
That court battle has sparked a tug-of-war over who should be required to testify – and what documents should be presented in court. A bid to force legislators and legislative staff to turn over information is currently before an appeals court.
But what has emerged is a batch of documents that consist mainly of emails among Florida political consultants – including some who were getting paid by the Republican Party. The emails show how the consultants routinely traded redistricting information, and how it would potentially affect Republican incumbents.
But some emails show legislative employees exchanging information with these same consultants. In one example, a top aide to then-House Speaker Dean Cannon used a personal email account to send a consultant a link to a congressional district map. The aide, Kirk Pepper, did not respond to a phone call or email requesting comment.
Another email shows a Republican Party official telling one political consultant that the latest proposed redistricting map for Congress “could entice” U.S. Rep. John Mica to run against U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams. Mica did run against Adams, defeating her in the GOP primary.
“This really begins to pull back the curtain on what was touted as an open and nonpartisan process,” said Gerald Greenberg, a lawyer for the League of Women Voters, La Raza and Common Cause, all of which are challenging the maps adopted by state legislators.