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GOP Staffer Questioned About Districts He Drew

May 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

An employee of the state Republican Party who drew congressional districts that appear to have been submitted to the Legislature under someone else's name took the stand in a redistricting trial Friday, as lawyers continued to battle over access to documents generated by political consultants.

Frank Terraferma, who became director of state House campaigns for the Republican Party of Florida in January 2011, began testifying late Friday as the trial's first week came to a close. Voting-rights organizations and some individual voters have challenged the state's congressional maps, saying they violate the anti-gerrymandering Fair District amendments approved by voters in 2010.

Under questioning from David King, a lawyer representing the map's opponents, Terraferma conceded that maps submitted to the Legislature under the name of Alex Posada contained districts that looked nearly identical to districts Terraferma had drawn on his computer.

Terraferma did not send maps to lawmakers through the public system that the House and Senate's redistricting committees used to gather ideas.

"But you were willing to put your work product before the Legislature under somebody else's name," King said.

"I'm not aware that it was done until potentially right now," Terraferma said a moment later.

"Sitting here today in this courtroom, this is the first time you've ever realized that your work product was contained in public maps 132 and 133?" King asked.

"Yes," Terraferma replied.

Terraferma testified earlier Friday that he drew maps that might have looked outside the scope of his job running state House campaigns for a variety of reasons, including whether new congressional and Senate districts could set off chain reactions that might open up House seats.

"The other thing is, candidly, it's fun, to be honest with you," Terraferma said. "And I enjoy doing it."

Lawyers for the map's critics have worked all week to try to outline conversations between political operatives in Tallahassee and legislative staff, apparently with the goal of showing that outside consultants improperly influenced the map-making process. Under the Fair District standards, lawmakers are barred from drawing lines meant to help or harm political parties or candidates.

Outside the courtroom of Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis, attorneys for the voting-rights organizations asked the Florida Supreme Court to consider an emergency appeal of an order that would bar them from using hundreds of pages of documents produced by political consultant Pat Bainter and his Gainesville-based consulting firm, Data Targeting Inc.

On Thursday, the 1st District Court of Appeal issued an order that would keep secret 538 pages of documents.

Bainter and his firm say divulging the documents could reveal trade secrets and endanger his firm's First Amendment rights; Lewis had ruled the documents should be turned over to the plaintiffs and would become public records if they were entered into evidence.

In their filing with the Supreme Court, the plaintiffs said the documents were of "crucial relevance" to their case. Attorneys plan to call Bainter and some other consultants to the stand to discuss their involvement in the redistricting process.

"The trial is scheduled to last only until Tuesday, June 3, 2014; the trial judge is rotating to the criminal division, and with each passing day, the plaintiffs will soon lose the chances of resolving this litigation in time for the districts to be redrawn, without gerrymandering, for the 2014 election," the filing said.

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