Florida Supreme Court Blasts Republicans For Deleting Emails To ‘Cover-Up’ Illegal Redistricting (IMAGE)

The Supreme Court of Florida just handed a major defeat to the entire Republican-led Congress for unconstitutionally trying to re-draw congressional districts in an attempt to defraud voters, and win more seats.

The practice of gerrymandering is well-known nationwide, but in Florida, things changed when voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2010 that explicitly made gerrymandering illegal. For those that don’t know what gerrymandering is, it’s the manipulation of congressional districts to skew election results in favor of one party.

Republicans in the state knew they were limited with how they could conduct this process in the future, and because of this, made every attempt to get rid of any evidence implicating them.

The deleting of evidence was one of the Supreme Court’s justifications for striking down the ridiculous maps the GOP Congress had drawn just two years prior. Justice Barbara Pariente, who wrote for the majority, said:

Since many of the e-mails were deleted or destroyed, we still may have only a partial picture of the behind-the-scenes political tactics.

In their final ruling, it also dismissed any arguments the legislature had for not holding onto the emails.

The Legislature clearly knew that communications between, for instance, Speaker Cannon and political consultant Reichelderfer would not be privileged, that they would be sought in litigation, and that litigation was certain to occur. Yet, Speaker Cannon did not preserve these records—and the only reason we now know these communications occurred is because records were produced during the litigation by Reichelderfer. The same is true of non-public draft redistricting maps sent to Reichelderfer by legislative staffer Kirk Pepper, using a personal e-mail account and a since-deleted “Dropbox” account.

Republican’s illegal and deceptive practices widely hurt voters in that state and practically avoided a Democratic-led Congress. Even though more than a half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates in 2012 (the last election), Republicans still won 55 percent of the House seats. Only by gerrymandering were Republicans able to secure a majority.

A gross example of this is what they did with Corrine Brown’s district. They drew a long, odd-shaped district, meant to gather as many African-American voters as possible so that the “black vote” wouldn’t interfere with other areas. While this was a good thing for Corrine Brown personally, allowing her to secure a victory, this effectively handed many districts to the GOP, leaving only one seat for Democrats.

Now, because of this latest Supreme Court ruling, her district and districts like hers, are ruled unconstitutional and must be redrawn before the next election. That election is only a year away, and it’s causing Republicans to scramble since their seats may or may not be “protected” any longer.

Dave King, a lawyer for the League of Women Voters, responsible for originally challenging the illegal districts said:

This is a complete victory for the people of Florida who passed the Fair Districts Amendment. The court has made it abundantly clear that partisan gerrymandering will not be tolerated. We look forward to the legislature following the constitution and the directives of the court.

What’s hypocritical about the decision is that the legislature itself said that it would conduct “the most open and transparent redistricting process in the history of the state.” It then deliberately went to great lengths to conceal its communications. The Supreme Court didn’t forget to remind the legislature of that promise, and that it had failed in this regard.

The court set forth the following guidelines that are meant to hold Congress accountable in the future:

  1. All meetings where decisions about maps are made should be public.
  2. All non-public meetings about the maps should be recorded for preservation.
  3. There should be a mechanism for people to submit alternative maps, and for citizens to offer feedback.
  4. All emails and documents related to drawing the map should be preserved. (Wait – so no more deleting!? DANG!)
  5. The legislature should publicly document its justifications for its new district lines.

Only Arizona joins Florida in being the only other state in the country that makes partisan gerrymandering illegal. In its attempt to bring more power back to the people, the state set up an independent commission of five judges. Two democrats, two republicans, and a fifth person voted on by the remaining four members are in charge of drawing the congressional districts.

While it’s never going to be a perfect process, it has shown to be vastly more effective at establishing fair districts. Republicans whined once they found out that it hurt their re-election chances, but the United States Supreme Court just upheld that law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the majority opinion, said:

The people of Arizona turned to the initiative to curb the practice of gerrymandering and, thereby, to ensure that Members of Congress would have ‘an habitual recollection of their dependence on the people. In so acting, Arizona voters sought to restore ‘the core principle of republican government, ‘namely, ‘that the voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around.’

Every state in the nation needs to do what either Arizona or Florida is doing, and get rid of gerrymandering. It’s one of the few things that continue to keep politicians in power, despite the majority of people disapproving of the job Congress is doing.

Also, don’t be expecting Republicans around the country to be going on any talk shows any time soon denouncing Florida’s Republican Congress of its email deletion policies. However, for these same conservatives, going after Hillary Clinton for holding a private email account will be fair game.

As is the case with redistricting, this proves that partisanship always comes first over principles.

Featured image via Flickr.