After a Florida Supreme Court ruling today, the public will be able to view documents that led a judge to declare the state’s congressional districts unconstitutional. The court ordered the unsealing of a Republican strategist’s records cited as key evidence in this year’s redistricting trial.
During this year’s trial challenging Florida’s congressional district boundaries, GOP consultant Pat Bainter submitted more than 500 pages of documents generated at his Data Targeting firm. But Bainter sued to block his communications and maps from entering the public record. Now the Supreme Court has ruled the documents should be unsealed because of “an overriding public interest in openness.”
Deirdre Macnab is president of the League of Women Voters. That’s one of the groups fighting the maps in an ongoing challenge.
“Basically, it’s great news for the people of Florida,” she says. “It sent a very clear message to political consultants to stay out of the redistricting process.”
Several Florida media companies and the Florida First Amendment Foundation filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to unseal Bainter’s documents. The groups wrote the papers were pivotal evidence relied upon by the trial court in declaring the maps violated the state’s Fair Districts amendments.
League attorney David King has seen the documents and agrees.
“We thought the documents supported the notion that he was actively engaged in an extensive process to draw maps favorable to the Republican Party and to facilitate the submission of those maps to the Legislature through shell people,” King says.
He adds Bainter’s documents will also be used as evidence in the coalition’s challenge to new congressional maps the Legislature drew after Lewis’s ruling. Oral arguments in that case are scheduled for next March before the Florida Supreme Court.