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Disputed redistricting emails to get closed-door review

Friday, May 31st, 2013 by John Kennedy

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.

 

League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote get back to work in Florida

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

After a federal judge last week blocked portions of a controversial new election law signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, the League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote will get back to work registering voters, the groups announced Wednesday.

“Failure was never an option in this battle against voter suppression,” said LWVF President Deirdre Macnab. “Now it’s time for our volunteers to work overtime to make up for lost ground. Our goal? To make sure every eligible Floridian has the opportunity to have their voice heard and their vote counted.”

On May 31, Tallahassee federal judge Robert Hinkle stopped a 48-hour turnaround requirement in the new law for third party groups to turn in voter registrations to elections supervisors and halted a requirement that the organizations submit to the state the names of all “registration agents,” including those who simply hand out fliers. Hinkle wrote that portions of the law dealing with third party voter organizations likely violated at least two federal laws.

While Hinkle’s preliminary injunction was not a final ruling on the law, he wrote that the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote, two of the plaintiffs in the case, were likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuit, opening the door for the nonpartisan groups to resume their work. The LWVF had registered voters in Florida for more than seven decades prior to the passage of the law, now being challenged in a federal lawsuit in Washington.

Rock the Vote registered more than 100,000 new voters before the 2008 election, the group’s president Heather Smith said last week.

“Florida is an important youth vote state,” Smith said today. “This decision enables us to get back to the work of encouraging a new generation of engaged voters and future leaders.”

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