The Florida Supreme Court released its lengthy ruling validating the congressional redistricting map drawn by plaintiffs and approved by the trial court Wednesday, a day before the court routinely releases its opinions. So was the out-of-calendar release of the redistricting opinion just convenience, or was it intended to send a message to the lawyers, and court, in the pending Senate redistricting trial?
The timing is important.
Friday is the day responses are due in the Senate redistricting case in which parties must specify their objections to the maps submitted. A pivotal issue in that case is the question of who shoulders the burden of proof to show whether the maps as submitted are drawn with partisan intent and the court's ruling addressed that issue at length. Download Sc14-1905_Final_Opinion (1)
Meanwhile, depositions are underway. As the court released its opinion validating the lower court’s conclusion that the plaintiff's congressional map was not drawn with any attempt to favor or disfavor a political party, the principal mapdrawer for the challengers, John O'Neill, was being deposed in the Senate case.
O’Neill, a consultant with Strategic Telemetry, will be a key witness for the Senate as they try to show that the maps submitted by the plaintiffs – the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and a group of Democrat-leaning individuals – were drawn to favor Democrats in violation of the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts rules of the state constitution.
The lawyers for the GOP-led House and Senate say that the four maps submitted drawn by O'Neill with consultation with another redistricting expert and they have ties to Democrats. They allege that the maps were designed to intentionally pack Republicans into districts in an effort to make adjacent Democratic seats more competitive for Democrats -- an allegation that has long been lodged against the GOP-drawn maps of the last 23 years.