Carolina

The S. Carolina US House of Representatives is under scrutiny based on race

A trial to determine whether South Carolina’s congressional tickets are legal ends Tuesday with disputes over whether the state legislature watered down black voting rights by redrawing the borders of the only Democrats in the US House of Representatives have turned around in more than 30 years.

The trial is also the first time South Carolina’s maps have had legal scrutiny since the US Supreme Court was removed Part of a 1965 law that required the state to seek federal approval to guard against discriminatory redistribution proposals.

A panel of three federal judges will hear the case in Charleston. A verdict is expected later.

The Republican-dominated General Assembly has redrawn the maps Earlier this year based on the 2020 US Census, and they were used in this month’s midterm elections.

According to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP The new borders unconstitutionally divided black voters in the state’s 1st, 2nd, and 5th districts and packed them all into the 6th district, which already had a majority of African-American voters.

The civil rights group has claimed during months of wrangling that the General Assembly’s actions have not only diluted black voting power, but also strengthened the Republicans’ 6-to-1 advantage in the state’s U.S. House of Representatives delegation. The last time a Democrat flipped a seat in the US House of Representatives was in 2018. Before that, the Democrats had not won a seat from Republican control since 1986.

The new congressional districts “disable black voters to meaningfully influence congressional elections in those districts,” NAACP attorneys allege in the lawsuit.

Attorneys for the state legislature said the 1st Circuit needed to be changed because of South Carolina’s population growth of more than 10% from 2010 to 2020 happened along the coast.

Lawmakers also insisted they were following guidance from the US Supreme Court in 2013 when it overturned a provision in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required South Carolina and eight other mostly Southern states to obtain federal approval if they Redraw district maps.

“The General Assembly has not abused race in selecting a district by lot or in enacting a plan to redistribute districts,” the Legislature attorneys wrote. “The General Assembly may have been racially aware in the drawing of district lots and redistribution plans, but such awareness is not contrary to the Constitution or the law.”

The crux of the NAACP argument is that the Legislature ignored “communities of interest” in several regions of the state: places where voters share economic, social, historical, or political ties, or are within the same geographic or governmental borders.

They cited several plans Legislators did not assume that Charleston and surrounding areas would have remained entirely in the 1st District, rather than demolishing some areas with significant African American populations and moving them to the 6th District.

Republican US Rep. Nancy Mace won in 2020 under the old card by 1.3 percentage points. Under the new card, she won re-election to the 1st district earlier this month by 13.9 percentage points.

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James Pollard is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.

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