Washington law firm probing Senate Democrats’ links to congressional redistricting lawsuit


A Washington law firm wants to know what communications Senate Democrats have had with the groups who sued Florida over the new congressional redistricting map.

The Senate Democrats and their staff members have been served with a records request asking them to turn over any communications they’ve had with the five major plaintiffs in the suit of Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute et al versus Laurel Lee et al.

The request also asks for communications the Senate Democrats may have had with other interested parties in the suit, including various Democratic Party organizations.

The Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute, Equal Ground Education Fund, League of Women Voters of Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida Education Fund and Florida Rising Together, plus 12 individuals, are suing in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit Court in Leon County to have the redistricting map declared in violation of Florida’s Constitution and thrown out.

This year’s elections are going forward with the map. The 1st District Court of Appeals said the challenge would need a full trial if any judgments are to be rendered, and time ran out for that for the 2022 elections. But the lawsuit remains active and could affect future congressional elections.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book called the records request “strange” and wondered why Democrats are being targeted with the request, when Republicans were the ones who did all the work on the map.

She said she is uncertain what interest the Washington law firm of Holtzman Vogel might have with Florida’s congressional map, Florida’s Republican leadership that produced the map, or the lawsuit trying to stop it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly crafted the map (P 0109) ultimately passed in Special Session and signed by DeSantis in March.

Democrats watched helplessly as DeSantis pushed the map through to partisan approval, replacing a version the Legislature had approved earlier, which DeSantis had vetoed. The final map controversially dismantles a North Florida district represented now by U.S. Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. It also created the prospect that Florida’s congressional delegation could become 20 Republicans and eight Democrats after the General Election, changed from the current split of 16 Republicans and 11 Democrat.

Black Voters Matter Capacity Building Institute and the other plaintiffs, backed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, filed their lawsuit mainly contending that DeSantis’ map diminishes the power of Black communities to elect a candidate of their choice. That would violate the Fair Districts amendment to the Florida Constitution.

The records request from Holtzman Vogel asks the Democrats to provide copies of any emails, text messages, or other messages from or to them or staff communicating about the map with the various organizations or with individuals associated with them.

The records request also asks for Senate Democrats’ communications about the map with the Elias Law Group, Perkins Coie, King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Common Cause Florida, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, Latino Justice, Fair Districts Now, the Florida Democratic Party, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.

“It’s crazy,” said state Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, who was on the Senate committee.

State Sen. Victor Torres, an Orlando Democrat, said responding should not be a problem because he has had no communications with any of the groups.

“They should be checking the records on the Republican Side,” Torres said.

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