September 15, 2015

League and Common Cause offer up 3 alternative maps, each with different set of changes

The plot keeps thickening this morning as another round of maps are offered up, bringing the total of options to seven for Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to choose from when he makes a recommendation for Florida's final congressional map. Story here. 

The League of Women Voters and Common Cause, known as the Coalition plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the GOP-led Legislature, offered three maps as their submission to the court, each with a different set of options. 

The first map. CP-1, would modify eight districts -- 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 in South Florida -- ncluding the Miami districts 26 and 27, now held by U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

The plaintiffs had complained that the configuration sought in the House and Senate base map kept the City of Homestead whole as they Florida Supreme Court had ordered, but it did it in a way that moved black communities out of Curbelo's district to make it more favorable for his re-election, a violation of the incumbent protection prohibition in the state constitution.

Their proposal eliminates that change and "results in the same or increased compactness in seven out of eight of the districts, and that has seven fewer city splits than either the House plan (c9071) or the Senate plan (c9062),'' the wrote.

The second and third maps, CP-2 and CP-3 focuses only on CD 26 and 27 but each with a different variation. 

The maps were drawn by John O’Neill, a mapping software technician employed by Strategic Telemetry, located in Washington, D.C. "in coordination with, and at the direction of, Fritz S. Wermuth of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth, P.A., legal counsel for Coalition Plaintiffs."

Providing "additional, albeit limited, direction in the drawing process" were plaintiff's attorneys David B. King, Thomas A. Zehnder, and Vincent Falcone III of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth, P.A.

Allan J. Lichtman, a professor at American University, "reviewed, assessed, and analyzed the minority districts" in the proposed maps, as did  Ellen Freidin, the legal advisor for the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause and Pamela Goodman, president of the league and Peter Butzin, volunteer chairman of Common Cause of Florida.

The Senate was quick to seize on O'Neill and his map-drawing credentials, noting that his firm was retained by the independent commission of Arizona and was accused of drawing the maps in a way that favors Democrats.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the challenge to the Arizona independent commission but a new challenge is pending alleging the redistricting maps were drawn to favor Democrats. 

Republican Arizona Secretary of State Michelle Reagan has joined with Republicans asking that the congressional map in that state be thrown out. 

Democratic plaintiffs offer up congressional map -- after discussing with DCCC

The group of Democratic-leaning voters who have challenged the GOP-led redistricting efforts have offered up their version of a remedial congressional map and it includes most of the final map approved by the House with some changes -- to the Miami districts 26 and 27 now held by Republican Congressmen Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and the Palm Beach and Broward districts now held by Congressmen Ted Deutch and Lois Frankel. Story here. 

Drawn by Harvard University Professor Stephen Ansolabehere with data-analysis assistance from Boston University Assistant Professor Maxwell Palmer and lawyers from Perkins Coie in Washington, D.C., the submission from the group, known as the Romo plaintiff's, also includes this admission:

"In addition, Perkins Coie attorneys discussed aspects of the Romo Plaintiffs’ Proposed Remedial Plan with staff members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and NCEC Services."  Download Romo Notice Of Filing

NCEC services is a Washginton, D.C. consulting firm that specializes in "electoral analysis, campaign strategy, political targeting, and GIS services."

September 14, 2015

Senate gives court 2 maps - Galvano compromise and original; House submits one

The Florida Senate took a gamble Monday and submitted one congressional redistricting map that has never been voted on, and another that was rejected by Florida the House, as part of its official submission as ordered by the court. Read more here.  Download Senate submission letter

The Florida House took a more conventional approach and submitted the map that was approved 60-38 by the House before lawmakers tried and failed in August at their third attempt at reconfiguring the state's 27 congressional districts.

The submissions, which will be formally filed in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County on Tuesday, were ordered by Judge Terry Lewis on Friday after the legislative session ended in impasse.

Lewis extended the filing deadline until Tuesday in recognition of the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. It was not clear whether the two plaintiff groups -- the League of Women Voters and Common Cause and a coalition of Democrat-leaning voters known as the Romo plaintiffs -- had completed any submissions by the end of the day on Monday.

Lewis has scheduled Sept. 24 as the date for him to hear testimony and arguments from the parties over which of the proposed maps to choose from. He must make a recommendation to the Florida Supreme Court by Oct. 19, and is expected to choose a map that best adheres to the court's guidelines for drawing the map.

The Senate's decision to include two maps could lead to speculation about the Senate's motives. In addition to submitting the map approved by 23 senators, it also included a map proposed by Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, drafted by Senate staff at his direction six days after the session ended. 

Galvano said his map was intended to compromise between the map that passed the House and changes sought in the Senate, with the exception of keeping Hillsborough whole -- a change that House leaders suspected was intended to benefit an unnamed Republican. 

Instead, Galvano's revisions, known as Plan S026C9066, incorporates all the changes made to the base map drawn by the House and Senate staff and notes that 23 of the 27 districts "are identical to districts in the last map passed by the House" and retains "17 of the 27 districts" in the base plan.

The House map, as well as Galvano's revisions, modified the base map drawn by staff by preserving the cities of Groveland, Auburndale, Riviera Beach, and Sunrise into a single congressional district.  Download House submission letter

The House and Senate said the maps were drawn by staff with minimal input from legislators, but neither of them included any record or recording that took place during the non-public meetings. The Senate has said it has tape-recorded these conversations but the House has raised concerns that the court could question whether all conversations -- such as those between senators -- were recorded.  Download House Exhibit A  Download House Exhibit B  Download House Exhibit C

September 08, 2015

Crisafulli to Gardiner: failure to tape audio between senators may not 'satisfy a skeptical court'

Citing key differences in interpretation of the court's redistricting ruling, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli sent a letter to members Tuesday saying he is not interested in calling another special session on congressional redistricting unless the Senate is willing to adopt the House's map.

"Until and unless there is more direction from the Supreme Court, the most prudent course of action is to act on the map that was the joint work product of our two chambers,'' Crisafulli wrote to his counterpart Senate President Andy Gardiner, in a Sept. 1 letter released on Tuesday.

Crisafulli attached the letter in an email to House members, explaining that the difference between the two chambers is their interpretation of how much flexibility the court gives lawmakers to fix the congressional map the court invalidated in its ruling in July. Download President Gardiner Letter 090115 Corrected

The House disagrees with the Senate that the Florida Supreme Court ruling "gives members more leeway to influence regions of the map for community interests," he said.

The court ruled that the burden now falls to lawmakers to prove they are not intentionally trying to protect Republicans. In that regard, Crisafulli told Gardiner that he does not "question the motives of any Senator, but I am not convinced that a public meeting and audiotapes of meetings with Senate staff (but not meetings between Senators) will satisfy a skeptical court." 

After lawmakers reached an impasse over a final map in August, the high court on Friday ordered the trial court to review the rival maps submitted by the the House and Senate and the "parties" and recommend either the best map, or the best components of them all.

The court also opened the door to the state Senate's request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the Oct. 17 deadline the court set in July.

Gardiner, R-Orlando, renewed his call for another special session on Friday and last week Senate Redistricting Chairman Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, proposed a "compromise" map intended to address the House's concerns that the Senate map did not apply consistent standards throughout the state when drawing the map.

On Tuesday, Gardiner said in a statement that he believes Galvano's proposal to be "more constitutionally compliant" than the House's map as drawn by staff. 

But Crisafulli has all but rejected that approach. 

"If the Supreme Court were to give us more time, we might be able to meet to hash out remaining concerns with the post-session map offered by Chair Galvano,'' he said in his letter to members. But, he suggested, that "in redistricting, unlike other legislative matters, the final arbiter of legislative intent is the Florida Supreme Court."  Download Memo to Members Supreme Court Decision 090815

House Reapportionment Committee Chairman Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said that while Galvano's map "is an improvement," it is fraught with problems.

"To return to a special session and fall right back where we had the impasse would not be good for the process and it would not help advance the prerogative of the Legislature in drawing these maps,'' he said in an interview with the Herald/Times.

"We don’t know how many senators are in support of that. There’s not been some great outcry form the Senate as a whole,'' he said. "The fact that it was not done during a legislative process is also a concern."

Oliva said that while he is not supportive of the high level of scrutiny the court has imposed on the Legislature's redistricting process, by shifting the burden to them to prove they did not intend to protect incumbents or political parties, the House's map the safest way to avoid having it rejected by the court.

"We have to draw maps that show consistent methodology from one end of state to another and meet those high levels of scrutiny,'' he said. "The process by which the base map was done was a sound process and will hold up on the stand."

By contrast, the Senate modified the base map drawn by House and Senate staff by including changes pursued by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, to Hillsborough County that House leaders believe could be interpreted by the court as done to benefit an incumbent or a political party.  

Crisafulli suggested to Gardiner that lawmakers had little choice but to move forward with a staff-drawn base map drawn by staff according to the guidelines from the court as they interpreted them.

Crisafulli did not mention that the Senate has admitted failing to follow the rules of the Fair Districts amendments and has agreed to call a special session in October to redraw the Senate map, or that court documents show that the secretive redistricting process conducted by political operatives had potentially influenced the Senate maps.  

"Maybe the burden of proof the Supreme Court placed on the Legislature during the remedial process is too great,'' Crisafulli wrote to Gardiner. "Maybe Amendments 5 and 6 were written in such a way to be impossible for the Legislature to fulfill. Maybe the real agenda of the authors of Amendments 5 and 6 is, as many have long feared, to take the process out of the hands of elected officials and transfer the duty to the courts.

"I do not know the answers to these questions, but I do not think a remedial Special Session is the time to argue these important issues or test these court-imposed limits."

Absent another special session, expect Lewis to issue a scheduling order soon on when he will hold a hearing on the "proposed remedial plans" from both the House, the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them.


September 05, 2015

How data sleuths pursued maps and emails to reveal redistricting conspiracy

Senate comparison map
The legal team that uncovered the shadow redistricting process that invalidated Florida’s congressional and Senate districts didn’t rely just on maps and cloak-and-dagger emails to prove that legislators broke the law. 

The best clues came in the form of data — millions of census blocks — delivered electronically and found in the files of political operatives who fought for two years to shield it. 

The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in July that lawmakers were guilty of violating the anti-gerrymandering provisions of the Florida Constitution and ordered them to redraw the congressional map.

It was a landmark ruling that declared the entire process had been “tainted with improper political intent” — a verdict so broad that it prompted an admission from the state Senate that lawmakers had violated the Constitution when they drew the Senate redistricting plan in 2012. The Legislature has scheduled a special session in October to start over on that map. 

But the breakthrough for the legal team — lawyers for the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, a coalition of Democrat-leaning voters and their redistricting experts — came just days before the May 19, 2014 trial on the congressional map was set to begin.

After two years of legal challenges, Florida justices ruled that emails, maps and accompanying data produced by political consultants and related to redistricting must be produced and could be discussed at trial. The challengers had already learned that the Legislature’s maps selectively shed and added populations to congressional districts to improve the performance for incumbent candidates, but they had only circumstantial evidence that the maps found on the computers of the political consultants played a role.

Using a matrix that reviewed 400,000 precincts covering 27 districts in each map, the lawyers and their experts “were able to trace the evolution of the maps and figure it out,” said David King, of Orlando-based King, Blackwell, Zehnder and Wermuth, the lead lawyer for the League of Women Voters and Common Cause.

More here

Image: This is part of Exhibit 12 as prepared by the redistricting challengers shows the Broward-based state Senate district that was used by map drawers to pack Democrats into a black-majority district in an effort to make the adjacent districts less competitive. 

The first map, ‘senatecomm’ was produced by Senate staff. The second map ‘mcarvin – draft_s01’ was sent to the Senate’s redistricting lawyer, Michael Carvin, and identified in emails from political operatives as ‘the plan’ a month before it was presented to senators or made public. 

Maps, ‘senate7’ and ‘senate9’ were draft maps also produced by the Senate in a way that retained the district that had been promoted by the operatives. Testimony indicated that the staff director of the Senate Reapportionment Committee, John Guthrie, acknowledged there must have been a breach in the Senate that allowed maps to go from his office to political operatives.

September 04, 2015

Court allows for another redistricting session but orders trial court to take charge

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered the trial court to return to the redistricting drawing board, allowing it to review the rival maps submitted by the House and Senate and choose between them. 

The court rejected a request by the plaintiffs to take over the drawing of the congressional map after a two-week special session of the Legislature in August ended in stalemate without an enacted map.

But the high court also opened the door to the state Senate's request to conduct another special session on redistricting, as long as the work is completed by the deadline it set in July -- Oct. 17.

The ruling orders Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis to hold a hearing on the "proposed remedial plans" from both the House, the Senate, as well as any amendments offered to them.

"However, the Legislature is not precluded from enacting a remedial plan prior to the time the trial court sets for the hearing,'' the court added.

The ruling was signed by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy Quince and J.C. Perry. Justice Charles Canady, the most outspoken critic of the court's previous redistricting rulings, concurred in most of the decision but dissent in the part which said the trial court may not accept new evidence. Justice Ricky Polston concurred.

Continue reading "Court allows for another redistricting session but orders trial court to take charge" »

August 31, 2015

Senator Nelson calls for independent redistricting commission


The repeated failures of the Florida Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional districts is a sure sign that Florida needs to create an independent commission to do the work, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said during a stop in Tallahassee on Monday.

“Seems to me we need an independent commission for future reapportionment so that you stop this self-serving process of drawing districts for your own self interest,” said Nelson, a Democrat.

Nelson’s comments come 10 days after the Florida Legislature ended its 12-day special session without producing a redistricting map that both the House and Senate could agree to for the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Nelson said other states – like Arizona and California - have created commissions to draw congressional districts and Florida needs to explore the same idea to keep the map drawing out of the hands of the self-interested.

“Seems to me that common sense says put it in the hands of as independent of a commission as you can make it,” Nelson said.

Nelson said the Legislature’s failures have created chaos and an uncertainty where people interested in running for office cannot file because they don’t know what district they are in.

When Florida voters overwhelmingly passed the fair districts redistricting reforms there was hope that that would be enough. But he said court documents reported on recently by the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau shows the Legislature has been engaged in a “political partisan exercise.”  He said the choice Florida faces is whether it will follow “partisan political hacks” or the rule of law.

Nelson also used his time in Tallahassee to accuse the Florida Legislature of having “thwarted the rule of law” over how it responded to the more recent Amendment 1, the constitutional amendment passed in 2014 calling for dedicating $700 million for environmental land conservation and preservation. The Legislature dedicated just a fraction for that cause.

August 28, 2015

Galvano redistricting prediction: The court is going to give us some time

Bill GalvanoAs the afternoon fades on this Friday in August, the Florida Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling as to how it wants to proceed in the redistricting impasse over the congressional maps.

Senate Redistricting chief Bill Galvano told the Herald/Times he believes the court is prepared to give the Legislature more time to work out differences between the House and Senate, if they can soon agree to reconvene in special session. 

"The door is still open to talk and reconvene, although that hasn’t been agreed to,'' said Galvano, R-Bradenton, in an interview. "There was a misunderstanding that the court was going to order or issue a statement today. The Supreme Court operates on its own time schedule. We still have until Oct. 17."

Meanwhile, Senate President Andy Gardiner on Friday formally requested a meeting with House Speaker Steve Crisafulli to discuss convening another special session to discuss the alternate map offered by Galvano.  Download 8 27 15 Speaker Crisafulli

Nearly a week after the last legislative session ended in stalemate, Galvano offered up a "compromise" map on Thursday that attempts to appease many of the concerns the House had with the final Senate map. On Friday, House Redistricting chairman Jose Oliva responded in a letter to House members that the Senate map had promise -- but also warned that it may be too late.

"If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon, that map would have been given serious consideration,'' Oliva wrote.

Continue reading "Galvano redistricting prediction: The court is going to give us some time" »

Jose Oliva: New Senate congressional map proposal is too late


At this time last Friday, House and Senate negotiations over new congressional district maps were falling apart, as the chambers approached a noon deadline without a compromise.

Now, House Redistricting Chairman Jose Oliva, R-Hialeah, says he likes the latest map proposed by Senate Reapportionment Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, Thursday.

But it's too late.

"If the Senate had offered an amendment like the map filed by Chairman Galvano yesterday afternoon," Oliva wrote in a memo to House members, "that map would have been given serious consideration."

At issue has been the configuration of a district in southern and eastern Hillsborough County, which the Senate pushed for but House members wouldn't agree to, saying it didn't use "consistent" methodology to draw boundaries and could be thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Galvano's latest map addresses other concerns of the Senate (including putting all of Sarasota County within one district) but doesn't create a southern Hillsborough seat.

Still, Oliva says the best path forward is to continue supporting a map that passed the House. That map made minor tweaks to a "base map" drawn by House and Senate staff before the redistricting special session began.

August 25, 2015

Lewis asks Supreme Court for redistricting direction; Galvano sees hope for new session

The Florida Supreme Court will now decide the best way to resolve the impasse over Florida's redistricting maps, after a trial judge said Tuesday he "has no authority" to resolve the dispute between the House and Senate.

Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis held a six-minute hearing in his Tallahassee courtroom and told lawyers that the Supreme Court "didn't give me a lot of discretion" when it ordered him to review a map passed by lawmakers in special session.

Lewis said he will report to the high court that lawmakers ended the session in gridlock on Friday and will "ask them what they want me to do."

He will tell the court that, "unfortunately, we're in a process that even though the Senate believes it can get something done, the House says I don’t think we can." 

The Senate filed a motion Monday asking the Florida Supreme Court to relinquish jurisdiction of the case to allow Lewis to conduct a hearing to decide whether the proposed Senate map or the House map was better.

Continue reading "Lewis asks Supreme Court for redistricting direction; Galvano sees hope for new session" »