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Sunday, 18 May 2014 09:50

Live on TV: The lawsuit that could change elections

Written by  Ellen Freidin, Team SCPA

Updated Friday, July 11, 2014 at 9:06am

Judge confirms Florida congressional voting districts maps are rigged, two districts must be redrawn.
See compilation of news reports: http://www.scpaflorida.com/item/2891-rigged-voting-districts-confirmed

BACKGROUND

Florida's Rigged Voting Districts + FairDistricts Reform

Trial started May 19, 2014, is now ended, awaits judges decision.

'THE LAWSUITE THAT COULD CHANGE FLORIDA ELECTIONS'

Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause expected to expose legislature dealings, LIVE in Court, for about two weeks.

THE FLORIDA CHANNEL
begins 9am -- LIVE STREAM
2nd Judicial Circuit Court Hearing on Congressional Redistricting

SEE IT HERE, LIVE FROM THE COURTROOM
(scroll down to Live Streams):
http://thefloridachannel.org/schedules/may-19-2014-schedule/

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Florida redistricting trial reveals secrets and schemes

Orlando Sentinel, by Scott Maxwell, TAKING NAMES
June 4, 2014

Excerpt

...Your state legislators are a bunch of low-down, scheming, email-deleting, secret-meeting-holding, money-wasting, constitution-violating, voter's-will-ignoring, snake-in-the-grass phonies.

That's more like it, as it's the picture that has clearly emerged over the past two weeks in a Tallahassee courtroom.

The setting has been the trial over Florida's whacked-out political districts.

Legislators have been accused of violating the Fair Districts amendment by using politics and partisanship to draw the state's congressional and legislative districts.

Anyone with one good eye could already see they had pulled off a scam. Instead of sensible districts that follow geographic boundaries and keep communities intact, legislators drew snake-like districts that slither through as many as eight counties.

But now we have gobs of witnesses, evidence and testimony to prove it.

Among the courtroom revelations:

•Former Speaker Dean Cannon's office deleted emails related to redistricting.

•Lawmakers routinely staged secret meetings — while proclaiming the process "transparent."

•Lawmakers' offices shared internal data and drafted maps with political consultants before finalizing them.

•Some of the districts — which legislators had claimed were drawn and submitted by an average citizen — appear to have actually been created by a GOP operative and submitted under a phony name.

•One political scientist testified that it would have been "virtually impossible" for legislators to have drawn the warped districts they did without intentional political bias.

•Another expert — one who has studied gerrymandered districts all over America — called Florida's districts the most biased he had ever seen.

It went on and on. And keep in mind: Some of the most damning evidence came from people who worked for and with the legislators.

Afterward, House Speaker Will Weatherford still tried to claim the redistricting process was "extremely open and transparent." His pants immediately burst into flames….

MORE:
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2014-06-04/digitalunlimited/os-florida-redistricting-scott-maxwell-20140603_1_fair-districts-amendment-legislators-gop-operative

 

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Florida redistricting trial gets surprise witness — and a closed courtroom

Tampa Bay Times, by Mary Ellen Klas, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau
Thursday May 29, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — The trial over Florida's redrawn congressional districts took a dramatic turn Thursday as the judge closed the courtroom to the public, and a private citizen — whom legislators commended for having drawn portions of the final congressional map — testified he did not draw any maps and his name was used without his permission.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis closed the courtroom to allow testimony about redistricting documents considered confidential by the firm that created them, Gainesville-based political operative Pat Bainter.

Bainter lost a yearlong legal battle this week when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that 538 pages of emails, maps and planning documents Bainter considered "trade secrets" could be admitted into evidence at the trial. But the court also said that when the documents are admitted, the courtroom would be closed to the public and the media.

The plaintiffs, a coalition of voters led by the League of Women Voters and seven Democratic-leaning individuals, accuse legislators of allowing political operatives to conduct a "shadow" redistricting process to benefit Republican incumbents and candidates in violation of the Fair District amendments to the Florida Constitution.

Lawyers for the GOP-controlled Legislature deny those claims and asked the judge Thursday to dismiss the case, claiming the challengers cannot prove that the actions of the political consultants resulted in lawmakers violating the Fair District amendments.

At least some of Bainter's "secret" documents were admitted into evidence Thursday, opening the door for the long-sought testimony of mystery mapmaker Alex Posada.

Posada, a former Florida State University student, allegedly submitted a complete congressional map at 4:42 a.m. on Nov. 1, 2012, as part of a legislative effort to encourage public input.

A state Republican Party official, Frank Terraferma, testified last week that portions of Posada's map were "identical" to a map he had created several months before, and that three of the districts in both maps were used in the final congressional map adopted by lawmakers.

During the trial, neither Terraferma nor any of the House and Senate redistricting staff could explain how the two maps came to look identical.

Plaintiffs' attorney David King told the court that in a last-minute deposition taken Thursday morning, Posada testified he never drew the map, never submitted it, and a Gmail account in his name used to submit the maps never existed.

"It was filed without his authorization under his name," King told the Times/Herald after the hearing. "He gave nobody authorization to file it under his name and the email account (used) to submit it was not his email account." ...

MORE: http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-redistricting-trial-gets-surprise-witness-8212-and-a-closed/2182090

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Redistricting Expert: Florida’s Gerrymandered Maps Give An 8 Point Advantage To Republicans

ThinkProgress, by Ian Millhiser, May 28, 2014

If Florida’s voters evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the state’s Republicans could still expect to hold 58 percent of the state’s congressional seats. Indeed, according to California Institute of Technology statistics professor Jonathan Katz, a leading expert on redistricting who testified in a trial challenging these maps as an illegal gerrymander, Florida’s maps are the most biased districts he has ever examined.

Although Florida has some of the most biased congressional districts in the country — in 2012, President Obama narrowly won the state but Republicans captured 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts — the League of Women Voters and other plaintiffs challenging Florida’s maps face an uphill battle in their lawsuit. Under a state constitutional amendment enacted in 2010, “[n]o apportionment plan or district shall be drawn with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent.” Thus, the plaintiffs in this lawsuit do not just have to prove that the maps are biased, they have to prove that they were drawn with the intent of favoring Republicans. As neither the plaintiffs nor their lawyers have ESP, that’s a difficult bar to clear.

Nevertheless, they have produced a considerable record suggesting that such intent exists. Beyond Katz’s testimony that Florida’s map is unusually biased, Stanford political science professor Jonathan Rodden presented research finding that it is “virtually impossible” that Florida produced its congressional map without some degree of intent.

In 2012, Democratic House candidates won over 1.3 million more votes than Republicans. And, yet, Republicans control the House thanks, in part, to gerrymandering that extended well beyond Florida:

MORE: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/05/28/3442100/redistricting-expert-floridas-gerrymandered-maps-give-an-8-point-advantage-to-republicans/

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Scientists: Florida's congressional map is 'partisan gerrymander'

Orlando Sentinel, by Aaron Deslatte, Tallahassee Bureau Chief, May 27, 2014

… In Florida's case, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit hired Katz at $500 an hour to analyze the re-drawn congressional maps. Katz concluded they were the most biased he had ever examined -- easily twice as pro-Republican-leaning as Texas maps drawn by the chair of that state's Republican Party.

His analysis suggested that the pro-GOP bias using 2010 voter-turnout data was 15.9 percent. Intuitively, that means Republicans could expect to capture 58 percent of the congressional seats to Democrats' 42 percent of the seats, even if voter turnout was perfectly balanced at 50 percent GOP and 50 percent Democrat.

Katz said preliminary analysis of the 2012 election results showed the same bias.

“In this case they did a really good job of following the recipe about how to do a partisan gerrymander," Katz testified in the Leon County court room.

Katz was then asked if he had considered the question of intent, which he had not.

“Intent’s a legal question and I’m not a lawyer," Katz said.

"What my analysis is about is whether or not the plan shows statistically significant partisan bias. The answer is it does. They produced a partisan gerrymander.” …

MORE: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/blogs/political-pulse/os-cal-tech-scientist-floridas-congressional-map-is-partisan-gerrymander-20140527,0,874321.post

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Evidence to be presented in court, see it live on THE FLORIDA CHANNEL beginning May 19, 2014
by Ellen Freidin, past director, Fair Districts Now campaign

Monday, May 19 will mark a very important day for Florida. It is the day that the curtain of secrecy will be pulled back and the truth about the Legislature’s 2012 redistricting process will start to be exposed.

For two years now the Florida League of Women Voters and Common Cause have been fighting in court to ensure that our FairDistricts Amendments are fully implemented. Starting May 19th they will submit evidence to prove that when the Legislature drew the 2012 Congressional map -- claiming that it was engaged in “the most open, transparent redistricting ever” – it was actually engaged in a parallel secret process to draw districts that favored a particular political party and certain incumbents. Of course this was a violation of our amendments.

Because of your long-term commitment to redistricting reform in Florida, I want to be sure that you are aware of this upcoming trial.  It will last at least two weeks and it will be televised on the Florida Channel and live streamed at:
http://thefloridachannel.org/schedules/may-19-2014-schedule/

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THANKS to Ellen Freidin, past director of FairDistricts Now campaign
https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/

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Lawsuit that could change Florida elections begins
GOP legislators accused of evading 'Fair Districts'
Jacksonville Times Union, by Gary Fineout

TALLAHASSEE | A court fight over Florida’s political landscape kicked off Friday, as attorneys for the Republican-controlled Legislature and groups suing them clashed over the question of whether legislators intended to thwart the will of voters when they drew new districts for congressional seats in 2012.

Lawsuits were first filed two years ago. The trial is scheduled to start this month in a dispute that could ultimately change the current makeup of the state’s congressional delegation, where Republicans hold a sizable majority.
In an effort to speed up the 11-day, non-jury proceedings, both sides were allowed to give their opening statements Friday.

David King, an attorney representing the League of Women Voters and other groups suing the state, told Judge Terry Lewis that legislators used a “shadow process,” which allowed them to circumvent a constitutional mandate prohibiting legislators from drawing districts intended to protect incumbents or members of a certain political party. ...

http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2014-05-09/story/lawsuit-could-change-florida-elections-begins

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BACKGROUND SUMMARY

Every 10 years, the Florida legislature redraws voting district maps for:
-- Florida House of Representatives
-- Florida Senate
-- Florida U.S. Congress

In November 2010, Florida voters passed 'FairDistricts' Amendments 5 and 6 to put an end to rigged voting districts across the state.

Incumbent politicians campaigned against the amendments and their opposition continued after the amendments passes. Florida Gov. Scott and Republican-dominated Florida legislature delayed implementation and dragged out the process. Remember the game of conducting hearings around the state, led by Senators Gaetz and Haridopolos? New candidates were running for office but did not know where the new voting districts would be!

When made available, the new district maps were not in compliance with the rules. While the map for state house best complied with FairDistricts amendments -- and was accepted by the Florida Supreme Court -- none of the maps were in full compliance.

The FairDistricts Coalition, which had worked to pass the amendments, followed with legal challenges and lawsuits in 2010.

Meanwhile, gerrymandered, rigged voting districts remained, especially for FL Senate and congressional districts -- clearly not in compliance with FL constitutional law. The 2012 elections came and went, with voting districts maps favoring incumbent Republicans.

Now, in May of 2014, the issue has still not been resolved, but important action is now happening in the Florida court system. The Florida League of Women Voters -- a member of the FairDistricts Coalition, is expected to be presenting evidence in court, live on TV beginning May 19, 2014

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SUMMARY compiled by Team SCPA with information primarily from FairDistricts Now campaign website:
https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/

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BACKGROUND LINKS

What happened after FairDistricts Amendments were passed?
https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/redistricting/is-it-over

Oops! Lawmakers destroyed redistricting records
https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/news/176/

What's this about? What is redistricting? What does the law say?
https://www.fairdistrictsnow.org/redistricting/

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FAIR DISTRICTS COALITION members in court include:

League of Women Voters of Florida
http://thefloridavoter.org/

Common Cause Florida
http://www.commoncause.org/site/pp.asp?c=dkLNK1MQIwG&b=4847581

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CONTRIBUTORS: Ellen Freidin, FairDistricts Now; Compiled by Team SCPA

 

Last modified on Friday, 11 July 2014 07:08
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