Emails From Florida GOP Reveal Truth About Gerrymandering

You may remember that a few months ago a Florida court overturned the legislative maps drawn up by the Republican-controlled legislature. Now some of the evidence in that case, emails to and from Republican consultants and legislators, reveal how they tried to cover up their role in drawing districts explicitly to help Republicans by packing black voters into single districts.

The Republican consultants had to be hush-hush — “almost paranoid” in the words of one — because of their high-stakes mission: Get go-betweens to help circumvent a Florida Constitutional ban on gerrymandering.

The plot was spelled out in a newly released batch of once-secret emails that show how the consultants surreptitiously drew congressional and state legislative maps. They then recruited seemingly independent citizens to submit them in an effort to strengthen the hand of Florida Republicans when the GOP-led Legislature redrew lawmaker districts in 2011…

The emails also provide a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of how political players used secrecy and deception as they recruited third parties to submit maps, some of which were drawn by Gainesville-based Data Targeting firm, led by political player Pat Bainter.

“Want to echo Pat’s reminder about being incredibly careful and deliberative here, especially when working with people who are organizing other folks,” Data Targeting’s Matt Mitchell wrote in a Nov. 29, 2011 email. “Must be very smart in how we prep every single person we talk to about all of these. If you can think of a more secure and failsafe way to engage our people, please do it. Cannot be too redundant on that front.”

“Pat and I will probably sound almost paranoid on this over the next week, but it will be so much more worthwhile to be cautious,” Mitchell concluded.

About 14 minutes later, consultant Jessica Corbett of Electioneering Consulting, responded that she understood the plan.

“Just to ease your minds, I have tried to do most of the asking over the phone, so their [sic] is no e-mail trail if it gets forwarded,” Corbett wrote, noting that she limits what “I am putting in writing” in emails…

The emails also detail how the consultants proposed districts that benefitted some Republicans or, in one proposal, “retires Bill Young,” the now-deceased congressman from Pinellas County.

The consultants established a database of lawmakers’ home addresses and overlayed them on some maps. In another case, they considered ways to pack black voters in a Miami-Dade district by creating a district with “some long tentacles to reach out and grab enough black population.”

The truth is this happens in every state. And Democrats do it to, when they control the legislatures when it’s time to draw new maps (though they don’t do it nearly as blatantly as Republicans do). And now we have proof.

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  • Modusoperandi

    And Democrats do it to, when they control the legislatures when it’s time to draw new maps (though they don’t do it nearly as blatantly as Republicans do).

    Actually, the Democrat party is worse. They insist that urban (*wink wink*) “voters” should be included in voting districts too, resulting in Voter Dillution by letting everybody vote.

  • freemage

    There was a push in the last election for a referendum to call for ungerrymandered districts in Illinois, currently controlled by the Democrats. While I’m a goo-goo of the first order, I opposed that measure, because I want to see it implemented federally, not state-by-state. I’m not walking into a knife fight bound by the Marquis de Queensbury rules. If we’re all playing fair, I’m confident enough in the appeal of progressivism to win honestly.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    And Democrats do it to[o]…


    The above concludes:

    Barring a strong action by the FEC that nobody currently expects, the 2016 presidential election will bend what’s left of the coordination rules even further.

  • Alverant

    I agree with freemage, ungerrymandering needs to be done on a federal level – all states at once. There has to be a better way of doing this so we don’t have districts to gerrymander. It’s almost like districts are their own mini-states with one rep each and these mini-state borders are dynamic.

  • theschwa

    How about we do it like getting to kids to share the last piece of pie. We have one party cut the state into X number of sections, and the other party gets first choice how to gerrymander the X/2 sections of its choice. If they still can’t decide, I am getting your father…

  • wesleyelsberry

    One is-the-cure-worse-than-the-disease approach would be to make all congressional elections state-wide elections. That would eliminate gerrymandering all right. A slightly less drastic approach would be to enforce a “contiguous set of whole counties/parishes” rule, where no county could be sub-divided for legislative districting, which likely would work better in states with many more counties than representatives.

  • d.c.wilson

    I’m going to disagree with Freemage based on the states are the laboratories of democracy principle. If a state like Illinois can demonstrate an effective way to ungerrymander its districts, it can then serve as a model for the nation.

  • Alverant

    Wilson, the problem with using states as test subjects is that people are going to interpret the results differently. One person may see a successfully ungerrymandered state while someone else would disagree (probably because they like it gerrymandered in their favor).

  • lorn

    Sure, both sides do it so … no problem. Nothing to see here, move along.

    Actually both sides don’t do it. this is qualitatively different from what Democrats have done in Florida. This takes what had been the expected level of manipulation to a whole new level of distortion. This plan was designed, financed, and covered up as an orchestrated effort that has gone far beyond any previous effort by any party or group in Florida. Possibly nationally.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    “Just to ease your minds, I have tried to do most of the asking over the phone, so their [sic] is no e-mail trail if it gets forwarded,” Corbett wrote

    Apparently there are people who do not understand Total Information Awareness.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Well, gosh. Sounds like a conspiracy doesn’t it?

    Maybe the Florida Attorney General could make a case here.

    Oh, wait …

  • gridlore

    “The truth is this happens in every state.”

    Not California. In 2010 we voted to take redistricting away from the legislature and give it to a citizens’ panel. Four Democrats, four Republicans, and four registered independents. They spent a year reviewing census results, studying maps, and holding hearings. We know it worked because both major parties freaked out over the results.

    We also changed the way people are placed on the ballot. For any race that has a primary, the top two vote getters in the primary go on the ballot regardless of party. That makes the general election combative in strongly red or blue areas. Even in a heavily Democratic area like San Fransisco you’d end up with two Dems running for the seat, giving voters a real choice.

    I’d love to see these changes go national.

  • d.c.wilson


    Then there’s no point in trying any kind of reform because there’s always going to be someone who opposes it no matter how you try to go about it.

  • iariese

    Iowa, too, has a non-partisan committee that designs state legislative districts – based on a number of criteria. The legislature CAN vote to not approve the redistricting three times, and then the legislature is forced to accept the 4th version. Because to the criteria used to design the various districts, any changes are always very minor.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Keep the politicians out of the process. Get an independent electoral commission to draw the boundaries. In South Australia the commission must not only get the numbers right: “it must also ensure, as far as is practicable, that the electoral redistribution is fair to prospective candidates and groups of candidates, so that if candidates of a particular group attract more than 50% of the popular vote, including preferences, they will be elected in sufficient numbers to enable a government to be formed.

  • lpetrich

    Why be stuck with single-member districts? Why not also multimember districts? I concede that I am a fan of proportional representation.

  • steve84

    Even better would a different voting system other than First Past The Post, which is the most stupid and undemocratic system. There are voting mechanisms that reduce gerrymandering to insignificance and have other advantages too.