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The surprise witness and mysterious map that have roiled Florida’s gerrymandering trial

A map of Florida from 1889.
A map of Florida from 1889.
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Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

As the trial over Florida's redistricted Congressional maps finishes its second week, a surprise witness has roiled the proceedings — and cast new doubt on Republican claims that the maps they approved were nonpartisan, as required by the state constitution.

The background is that four years ago, Florida's voters prohibited any redistricting intended "to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party." But after the GOP-controlled legislature created the newest maps, the League of Women Voters concluded that the new maps were in fact partisan, and sued to have them struck down. The case is now before a state judge, and the trial is concluding its second week. (We wrote more about the trial here.)

Back in 2012, the legislators had requested input from the public on the redistricting process — private citizens could submit their own ideas for maps. So on November 1, one complete map was submitted under the name of Alex Posada, who had recently been a student at Florida State University. Parts of that map were used in the legislature's final map, and legislators praised Posada's contribution as an example of citizen participation.

But in a surprising twist yesterday, Posada came forward and said he had nothing to do with the map submitted under his name. "Posada testified he never drew the map, never submitted it, and the Gmail account in his name that was used to submit the maps was not his," reports Mary Ellen Klas of the Miami Herald.

Where, then, did this map that the state GOP so loved come from? Well, Florida GOP official Frank Terraferma testified that parts of Posada's map were "identical" to a map he had previously drawn, Klas writes. But he's also said he has no idea how such a similar map ended up submitted to the legislature under someone else's name.

Overall, the plaintiffs are trying to make the case that Republican officials and operatives conducted a "shadow" process to get the new districts they wanted. And the new mystery about who actually drew Posada's map seems to strengthen their case quite a bit. The trial is scheduled to wrap up next week.

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