Lawyers for the Florida Legislature are asking a judge to exempt lawmakers from being called to testify about drawing legislative districts. The Wednesday circuit court hearing was part of an ongoing legal challenge to Florida’s legislative maps by several voting rights groups and backed by the Florida Democratic Party.
Lawyer for the Republican-led Florida Legislature, George Meros, says, the legislative maps approved this year were drawn according to state law.
“The testimony of legislators is not essential here to rebut the case," he says. "What rebuts the case and the facts is the maps.”
He also says forcing lawmakers to testify would scare many of them into remaining silent during the redistricting process in the future.
“You are going to have scores of legislators who are going to be intimidated for doing nothing," he told Judge Terry Lewis. "And the next time around, remember, Your Honor, the impact of weakening control is that you won’t have those statements because those people will be hiding.”
The maps are the first to be drawn since 2010, when Florida voters approved Constitutional amendments designed to prevent lawmakers from making maps that favor a political party or an incumbent.
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Michael DeSanctis, says it’s necessary to interview map makers and legislative leaders to be able to determine their intent and whether they violated the amendment.
“If the legislator doesn’t know, they say, 'I don’t know.' If they do know, then can tell us why a line was drawn a particular way. It’s exactly what the people of Florida wanted to know," he says.
Judge Lewis says whichever way he rules, he predicts the losing side will appeal to a higher court.