Emails From Florida GOP Reveal Truth About Gerrymandering

Emails From Florida GOP Reveal Truth About Gerrymandering November 25, 2014

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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