As Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis begins his final deliberations on congressional districts drawn by lawmakers in 2012, the gaps in conversations among lawmakers and political consultants might be as important as what’s in the record. Groups challenging the map have painted the words not committed to paper, and documents destroyed by the Legislature, as evidence of improper activity. The state has countered that there’s no proof that those gaps contain any damning information. A coalition of voting-rights groups filed a lawsuit after the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2012, saying the new map ran afoul of the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts amendments that voters approved two years earlier.
One of the key disputes in the challenge hinges on a series of maps drawn by Republican political operatives, and the fact that some of those maps were submitted under someone else’s name to a legislative website meant to gather public input.
“For nearly two weeks, plaintiffs presented evidence that various Republican consultants discussed the redistricting process, drew draft maps, and apparently worked to submit maps through the public process,” attorneys for the Legislature wrote in a filing last week. “But plaintiffs offered no evidence that those consultants influenced the congressional map.”
In a final brief filed Tuesday, though, lawyers for the voting-rights groups essentially asked: Why else would the political consultants spend time drawing those maps?