A Republican consultant trying to keep hundreds of pages of redistricting-related documents secret is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the release of the records in the latest twist in a legal battle over Florida’s congressional districts. Pat Bainter on Wednesday asked U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to issue an emergency stay blocking an order by the Florida Supreme Court less than 24 hours earlier that granted permission for the documents to be used in an ongoing trial challenging the constitutionality of the congressional map approved by the Legislature in 2012. Bainter argues that the 538 pages of “confidential material” contain “protected political speech — internal deliberations and strategy, and the names and contact information for like-minded individuals who wish to remain anonymous,” according to documents filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of Bainter, his Gainesville-based consulting company, Data Targeting, Inc., and several employees.
A coalition of voting rights groups, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, and seven voters contend the congressional map is unconstitutional because the GOP-dominated Legislature worked with Republican operatives through “public front persons” to create plans partial to Republicans. The groups say the map violates the voter-approved “Fair Districts” amendments, which bar lawmakers from creating districts that favor political parties or incumbents.
“In a nutshell, the respondents contend that the Legislature conspired with the applicants and others to subvert Florida’s recently adopted redistricting amendments. Not so. The applicants are simply political consultants. They align with the Republican Party and conservative causes, and as a result are thus vilified by the Democratic-respondents. But this does not mean that the non-parties conspired to violate the law as respondents suggest,” D. Kent Safriet, a lawyer for Bainter and the others, wrote in Wednesday’s 40-page appeal.