Redrawn South Carolina Congressional District 'Exiled' Black Voters, Judges Rule -- Update
By Jennifer Calfas
A panel of federal judges ruled South Carolina must redraw its U.S. congressional district map after finding lawmakers' redrawing of the state's first district discriminated against Black voters.
In a decision Friday, the three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina said "race was the predominant motivating factor" in how the state's General Assembly drew its first congressional district. The court ordered lawmakers to bring a new map to the court by March 31 and halted elections in the district until future court orders.
The state's first congressional district is located along the coast, running from Hilton Head Island to the Santee River and including parts of Charleston. The district was redrawn by the Republican-led state legislature after the 2020 Census. The drawing of the new district, the judges said, violated the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment.
The map, judges wrote in their decision, "ultimately exiled over 30,000 African American citizens from their previous district and created a stark racial gerrymander of Charleston County and the City of Charleston."
South Carolina House Speaker G. Murrell Smith Jr. said Friday he has been in touch with the House's legal team and anticipates the decision will be appealed.
"I maintain that the House drew maps without racial bias and in the best
Representatives for the governor and other state lawmakers didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The case was brought by civil-rights groups, including the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP. They accused lawmakers of unconstitutionally redrawing lines for the state's first, second and fifth congressional districts to discriminate against Black voters, violating the 14th and 15th amendments.
In an amended complaint filed in February 2022, they wrote lawmakers "chose perhaps the worst option of the available maps in terms of its harmful impact on Black voters."
The judges , two of whom were appointed by former President Barack Obama and the other by President Biden, didn't rule in favor of the groups' allegations regarding the second and fifth districts.
Representatives from the civil-rights groups didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In court documents, attorneys for state lawmakers said the redistricting plans maintained the core of the districts and kept intact the partisan majority in each district, with six majority-Republican districts and one majority-Democrat district.
The redrawing of South Carolina's first district moved more than 30,000 Black voters in the district to the state's sixth congressional district, the only Democratic-majority district, the judges wrote in their decision. The redrawing added Beaufort and Berkeley counties, both Republican-leaning, to the state's first district.
The state's first congressional district was centered in Charleston County and elected Republicans for decades, until Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in a tight race in 2018. Republican challenger Nancy Mace won against Mr. Cunningham in another tight race in 2020.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 06, 2023 15:56 ET (20:56 GMT)
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