Fla. Maps Trial: Former House Staffer Had 'Discomfort' With GOP Strategist Meetings

May 23, 2014

Kelly testifies Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Credit The Florida Channel

As the legal trial over Florida’s congressional districts continued Thursday, the House of Representatives’ former head redistricting staffer took the stand.  Questioning focused on how much input Republican strategists were allowed to during redistricting.

Former House staffer Alex Kelly answered questions about the process of drawing new congressional districts over a two-year period.

Kelly, who worked for the Republican Party before joining House staff, testified he met twice with consultants at the Republican Party of Florida before drafting began at the invitation of partisan strategists--and that he got the OK to do so from then-House Speaker Dean Cannon’s top aide.

“I had a discomfort about both meetings about the potential perception of them," Kelly testified Thursday.

David King, lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, asked, “OK, but you are told by Speaker Cannon’s Chief of Staff, Mr. Bahl, that it was appropriate for you to go?"

Kelly responded, “He blessed it. He was—he had a discomfort too, but ultimately he did OK it.”

King then asked about a draft map obtained from one of those consultants, Mark Reichelderfer and why it differed from draft maps the House produced.

“I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty that it wasn’t a changed or altered work product," Kelly said.

King asked, “Well, did you permit Mr. Reichelderfer to make those changes?”

“No, sir, I didn’t. Didn’t work with him on maps," Kelly replied.

King is representing a coalition of clients led by the League of Women Voters. The "changes" he’s talking about include carving out pieces of counties and boosting the percentages of minorities—which plaintiffs say created safely Democratic districts and took those voters out of surrounding districts to make them favor Republicans.

If Judge Terry Lewis agrees that’s true, the maps would violate the state constitution and have to be redrawn.