GOP consultants barred from redistricting only after lack of “privilege,” lawsuit finds

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Florida legislators tried to include political consultants in redrawing congressional districts, but barred only them after they found out the conversations would not be protected in court, reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

In the transcript, it seems the decision to ban Republican consultants came after lawyers discovered their input would not be considered “privileged.”

In an affidavit by Republican consultant Marc Reichelderfer, there was one meeting, on Dec. 3, 2010, between lawmakers, consultants, attorneys and other individuals involved in redrawing districts. That particular meeting had come under fire from the voting-rights organizations that eventually brought the lawsuit.   

According to Reichelderfer, it wasn’t until either January or February 2011, when it was clear that there is no immunity attached to the input, political consultants learned they would not be included in later meetings.

Reichelderfer suggested to lawyers from the League of Women Voters that consultants wanted to be part of the process, but “didn’t want anyone to know what they were saying or doing.”

“I suppose that would be a fair representation,” he responded.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, who led the House Redistricting Committee during the two years it worked on the new political maps, said he did not know of any conversations about privilege. He added that it was possible they took place prior to his taking over as chair.

Sen. Don Gaetz, who was in charge of Senate redistricting efforts, told reporters that even “appearance that the Legislature is not fully willing and able to explain our plans to any court of competent jurisdiction.” 

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.