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  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.

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