A high-stakes trial that could decide the future of the state’s congressional districts began Monday in Tallahassee , as a Republican political consultant testified that he didn’t influence the drawing of U.S. House lines in 2012. The testimony of Marc Reichelderfer marked the beginning of the first-ever court battle over the state’s once-a-decade redistricting process under the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments. Those constitutional standards, passed by voters in 2010, bar lawmakers from drawing lines intended to harm or favor parties or candidates when overhauling legislative and congressional districts after each U.S. Census. Over three weeks, members of the Tallahassee establishment ranging from behind-the-scenes aides and consultants like Reichelderfer to high-profile politicians like House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz are expected to answer questions about their role in redistricting as it unfolded two years ago. Weatherford and Gaetz could testify as soon as this week; former House Speaker Dean Cannon is also expected to be called to the stand during the trial.
On Monday, Reichelderfer underwent hours of grilling by attorneys for a coalition of voting-rights groups trying to persuade Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that Republicans drew maps that ran afoul of the constitutional standards. Democrats have long complained that part of the reason that the government of a swing state like Florida is dominated by Republicans is because of gerrymandering.
Reichelderfer repeatedly denied that he provided specific feedback to Cannon and Kirk Pepper, one of the speaker’s top aides, on how to craft new districts that would help the GOP. “I didn’t give them maps that I drew,” Reichelderfer said. “I didn’t tell them where to draw lines on the map. I didn’t tell them which maps they should pick.”