Florida’s redistricting fight continues on paper trailby John Kennedy | May 30th, 2013
A Republican-allied campaign research and consulting firm surrendered more than 1,800 pages of records this week but asked a judge Thursday to block a demand by Democratic-leaning groups for more emails and documents in a lawsuit over last year’s legislative redistricting battle.
Data Targeting, Inc., a Gainesville-based political affairs firm, said in a motion filed with Leon Circuit Judge Terry Lewis that organizations seeking the records are on an “old-fashioned fishing expedition.”
Lawyers for the company add that documents sought may include “proprietary” information that could threaten relationships with clients and reveal business secrets.
Lewis is expected to rule Friday in the matter, part of a post-redistricting clash that is already in the Florida Supreme Court. There, justices are being asked to dismiss the lawsuit before Lewis, which was filed by the Florida League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the National Council of La Raza.
The voter groups contend that redrawn Senate districts should be thrown out because Republican leaders 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.
Court documents filed earlier with Lewis show that emails were exchanged between aides to Senate President Don Gaetz,
House Speaker Will Weatherford and consultants who analyzed proposed maps.
The emails also show that in 2010, Rich Heffley, a Florida Republican Party consultant advising Gaetz, then the Senate’s
redistricting chairman, organized a “brainstorming” meeting at the state party headquarters in Tallahassee.
Other documents in the case show that Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, and Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who are both angling for Senate presidency in coming years, emailed district information to consultants for review.
The Supreme Court last year ruled the Senate’s initial proposal for redrawing the 40-member chamber unconstitutional. The 5-2 decision found the Senate plan protected incumbents, packed minority voters into districts and numbered Senate districts in a way to give incumbents more time in office.
It marked the first time since the court was brought into that stage of redistricting in 1972 that justices overturned a legislative map. The House map was approved by justices.