Local GOP consultants, others, file federal suit over FairDistricts
Posted by Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association · August 28, 2015 2:56 PM
A group that includes a pair of local GOP consultants involved in the legal and political dispute over gerrymandered Congressional and Florida Senate districts has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to have the Florida Supreme Court’s application of the FairDistricts constitutional amendment declared unconstitutional.
The group, which calls itself the Conservative Coalition for Free Speech and Association, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Pensacola Thursday.
The group’s leadership includes Stafford Jones, a Republican political consultant and head of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee, and Pat Bainter, with the political consulting firm Data Targeting.
Documents and emails that were part of the court record in cases over the Congressional and Florida Senate districts approved by the Legislature after the 2011 and 2012 redistricting process showed that Bainter’s firm and Jones worked to recruit people to have them present prepared district maps favoring the GOP.
In July, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that “political operatives” were involved in a process that resulted in gerrymandered Congressional districts that violated FairDistricts and the “prohibition on partisan intent.”
The circuit court case over the Florida Senate districts is ongoing.
In the lawsuit filed this week, Jones’ group argues that the Florida Supreme Court’s application and interpretation of FairDistricts violate their First Amendment right to engage in political speech.
“They have deemed the exercise of protected political speech and petitioning of government a ‘conspiracy.’ Surely there can be no such thing as a “conspiracy” to commit democracy.”
Alachua County Republican Executive Committee member Delana May, former School Board member Barbara Sharpe and Ermon Owens, the president of the Alachua County Chapter of the Florida Political Black Caucus, formerly the Alachua County Democratic Black Caucus, are plaintiffs.
State Rep. Mike Hill R-Pensacola Beach is also a plaintiff.
Originally Posted on the Gainesville Sun by Chris Curry