LWV files massive public records request for redistricting files

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Attorneys for the League of Women Voters submitted an official public records request to the Florida Senate asking for all documents related to the recent redistricting trial.

Dated August 14, a request to the Florida Senate was made through the Orlando-based law firm of King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth.

Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the GOP-controlled Legislature illegally drew Florida’s congressional districts to benefit the Republican Party.

In 2010, Florida voters approved “Fair Districts” amendments to the state constitution, where legislators could no longer draw district maps to favor incumbents or a particular political party, commonly known as gerrymandering.

Florida lawmakers recently completed a weeklong special session to revise the congressional redistricting maps Lewis declared invalid.

The demand pertains to all senators and their district staff as well as the Office of the President, Office of the Secretary, the Majority Office, Minority Office, the Bill Drafting Office, the Reapportionment Committee and the General Counsel’s Office.

Senate President Don Gaetz reminded senators and Senate staff they must retain records related to the redistricting process. In addition, the request includes documents from political strategists or consultants such as Data Targeting, Inc., Public Concepts LLC, Strategic Image Management LLC, or Bascom Communications.

Also named in the order are lists of the top names in Florida’s political consultancy: Pat Bainter, Matt Mitchell, Michael Sheehan, Marc Reichelderfer, Rich Heffley, Richard Johnston, Thomas Piccolo, Anthony Pedicini, Ryan Tyson, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Thomas Hofeller.

Officers, consultants and employees of the Republican Party of Florida, Republican National Committee, Republican State Leadership Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee Redistricting Majority Project or REDMAP active between 2010 through today, including Joel Springer, Frank Terraferma, Mark Jefferson, Mike Wild, and Chris Jankowski, were named as well.

As per Florida statute, “public records” are documents, papers, letters, maps, books, tapes, photographs, films, audio recordings, or other material, regardless of physical form or characteristics, made or received by pursuant to law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official business by the legislative branch.

According to a memo from Senate Counsel George Levesque, the Senate is not required to provide “bills or amendments that were filed, bill analyses, or other documents that were created and maintained by professional staff.” They also do not need to provide copies of notes for personal reference, but they must provide notes intended to be shared with others.

LWV attorneys will conduct an IT search of Senate email, as well as computers, personal devices, and hardcopy files for pertinent documents. Public records request policy is also to request searches of personal devices for any responsive e-mails, documents or files whenever requests warrant.

All records produced from the search will be directed to the General Counsel’s Office, then reviewed to ensure they are public records and not otherwise exempt or confidential.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.