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Disputed redistricting emails to get closed-door review

by John Kennedy | May 31st, 2013

More than 1,800 pages of emails and other documents from Republican consultants will be reviewed in coming weeks by a former Florida Supreme Court justice who will determine whether they should be made public in a lawsuit looking to overturn the state Senate’s new redistricting map.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis on Friday said that Major Harding, chosen by lawyers for both sides as a special magistrate in the case, should go through the disputed records behind closed doors to decide their fate.

Lawyers for voters groups want access to the material from Gainesville-based Data Targeting, Inc., a political affairs firm, which counters that the information is both irrelevant in the lawsuit and also poses a business threat, since the data could contain trade secrets.

Adam Schachter, attorney for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida, said Friday that so far, only 166 pages of documents have been made public by the firm. Another original party in the lawsuit, the National Council of La Raza, withdrew from the case this week.

The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders illegally shared data and
maps with political consultants. The voter-approved Fair District amendments to the state constitution prohibit districts from being drawn to help or hurt incumbents.

But the organizations suing say such communication has become evident in the first rounds of data already provided by the Legislature and various consultants subpoenaed in the lawsuit.

In a brief hearing Friday, Lewis acknowledged the mass of emails he’d reviewed included some names he was familiar with from the political fight over redistricting. Others were from people he didn’t know — but “some (emails) suggested that somebody was being copied” with the information exchanged, Lewis said.

 

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