Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)
Political operatives “sought to influence” the state’s 2012 redistricting process, but no lawmakers were aware, or worked with those operatives, according to court documents filed Friday by attorneys for the state Legislature.
It’s part of an ongoing redistricting lawsuit filed by a coalition of plaintiffs who said that Florida’s congressional maps were drawn to favor the GOP, which is at odds with anti-gerrymandering provisions in the state constitution.
The congressional maps were tossed this summer by Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, but he approved a different map redrawn by lawmakers during an August special legislative session. That map is now being appealed by plaintiffs.
In a 169-page brief, attorneys for the Legislature are asking that the second set of maps approved by Lewis are upheld, that the court not consider maps drawn by the plaintiffs, and if changes are needed that the Legislature, not court, make them.
The filing does not deny that political consultants tried to influence the process, but said they failed.
“Without question, the operatives sought to influence the redistricting process,” it read. “But at no time did the Legislature participate in their efforts.”
During this summer’s trial, maps drawn by political consultants and submitted by former FSU student named Alex Posada came under fire. Some districts passed as part of the final maps closely mirrored those on the Posada-submitted map. Plaintiffs said that proved GOP consultants had improper influence over the process.
Legislative attorneys point to the fact that the plaintiffs claim lawmaker’s and staff relied on Posada’s map, but were unable to quote anyone admitting they did so.
“They do not quote the admission because there is no admission to be quoted,” read the brief.
In a separate document dump last month, emails from Gainesville-based GOP consulting firm Data Targeting show that consultants were actively recruiting third-parties to submit maps drawn by political consultants.
That firm fought the release of those emails. Its legal bills are being paid for by the state GOP, but attorneys say the Republican-led Legislature was unaware of that process.
“The repeated assertion that operative “secretly” provided maps to legislators or staff members is without the slightest factual support,” read the filing.
Attorneys for the Legislature did take issue with Kirk Pepper, a GOP consultant who worked in the House speaker’s office during the redistricting process. During trial, it was discovered that Pepper had been giving non-public maps to Republican consultant marc Reichelderfer, his personal friend.
“While Pepper’s conduct is inexcusable, it does not evidence a conspiracy,” the filing read.