1. Florida Politics

Romano: Coincidences in Florida's redistricting case defy belief

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
Published Jun. 5, 2014

I kept waiting for Richard Dreyfuss to take the stand.

His expression would be aggrieved. His tone would be exasperated. He would hold Florida's redistricting maps in his hands for a moment, and then angrily toss them aside.

"This,'' he would spat, "was no mapping accident.''

Just like the classic scene in Jaws, we all know what's going on in the state's redistricting trial, but danged if our leaders don't continue to act innocent and bewildered.

They want you to believe in coincidences. They want you to accept a few minor indiscretions. Mostly, they want you to trust them and ignore the pile of evidence.

To do that, you would have to accept:

1. That no one knows how pertinent emails were deleted.

2. That the collective amnesia claimed by witness after witness was believable.

3. That legislative assistants had no ulterior motives when swapping maps with Republican Party consultants weeks before they were released.

4. That it was entirely coincidental that a map supposedly submitted by a student at Florida State University was practically identical to a map drawn by a party consultant.

5. That nothing shady was going on even though the FSU student admitted he never actually drew a map and didn't know how his name ended up on it.

6. That it was a case of serendipity when the student ended up working for a company run by the House speaker's brother.

If you were being polite, you might say all of that sounds rather suspicious. If you were being realistic, you would say it stinks. For, in the end, this is a matter of trust.

We are supposed to trust that our lawmakers had our best interests in mind even as they duck, evade, parse and seemingly fudge the truth.

And, all the while, there is no outrage in Tallahassee.

Gov. Rick Scott, who has to sign off on the congressional maps, should be furious at the appearance of impropriety considering he was once preoccupied with voter fraud.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, who is fighting a same-sex marriage suit in the name of a constitutional amendment, seems remarkably blasé about similar amendments being ignored in this case.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, act as if it is no big deal that someone fraudulently submitted a map that played a large role.

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, seems to have no problem with possible district stacking as long as it ensures her easy re-election.

And what's crazy is they almost pulled it off.

They had us convinced that federal voting regulations and the state's constitutional amendments were virtually incompatible, and that no map would ever perfectly fit the various criteria.

It took this lawsuit by the League of Women Voters to point out how your lawmakers used those excuses to continue to rig elections long before the polls opened.

The trial is over now, but the verdict is still to come. Closing arguments will be submitted in writing next week, and the judge's ruling is probably a few weeks away.

I'm not sure a definitive smoking gun was ever revealed, but I'm absolutely convinced that Republican Party officials had a hand in the drawing of those maps.

And that means the people who are sworn to represent us have instead been trying to deceive and undermine us.


  1. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, speaks on the floor of the Florida House. Grall is sponsoring a bill for the second time that would require parental consent for minors to obtain an abortion.
    The legislation would enact a consent requirement for minors.
  2. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. "OCTAVIO JONES   |   TIMES"  |  Times
    He could use his position on the Board of Clemency to allow nonviolent felons to serve on juries and run for office.
  3. Rep. Bruce Antone, D-Orlando, says the Legislative Black Caucus will prioritize both public education and school choice during the 2020 Florida session. The caucus held a news conference on Oct. 22, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The caucus announced its 2020 goals for justice, housing and other key issues, as well, with members saying they will stick together to pursue them.
  4. CHRIS URSO   |   Times
Florida Governor elect Ron DeSantis, right, thanks supporters including Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, left, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Orlando. DeSantis defeated Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    This new fact indicates an attempt to directly influence DeSantis’ early policy agenda as he took office, one that DeSantis said was unsuccessful.
  5. Pre-season baseball practice at Wesley Chapel High School. Lawmakers want to ensure student-athletes remain safe in the Florida heat as they participate in high school sports. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    PreK-12 Innovation chairman Rep. Ralph Massullo expects legislation requiring some ‘simple things.’
  6. President Donald Trump speaking during a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS  |  AP
    And few people are on the fence.
  7. Former sheriff of Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Knuhne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) STEVE CANNON  |  AP
    The full Senate will vote on the issue Wednesday.
  8. Parents of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018, push petitions for 2020 ban on assault weapons in Florida. (Miami Herald) MIAMI HERALD
    After months of glitches, the Department of State is resorting to a paper workaround while ballot initiatives face higher costs.
  9. U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney.
    The Naples Republican recently refused to rule out a vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
  10. Former Pasco County Corrections Officer Wendy Miller, 57 runs towards gunfire with instructor Chris Squitieri during active shooter drills taught by Pasco County Sheriff's Office at Charles S. Rushe Middle School in Land O' Lakes. These drills are put are a larger training program for the Guardian program that will staff elementary schools with trained armed guards.  LUIS SANTANA   |   Times "LUIS SANTANA  |  TIMES"  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The change is a reversal of a previous move by the department, which specifically excluded armed teachers from its policy.