US Supreme Court to decide if SC Congressional map discriminates against Black voters

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Published: Oct. 6, 2023 at 7:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The question of who represents South Carolinians on Capitol Hill will be before the US Supreme Court next week.

Justices are set to hear arguments Wednesday in a case that challenges the boundaries of the state’s Congressional map, claiming it discriminates against Black voters.

Early last year at the State House, the South Carolina legislature approved the state’s new Congressional map, capping off the redistricting process all states undergoes once a decade, based on new population data from the US Census.

That map was swiftly met with a lawsuit brought by groups including the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP on behalf of Taiwan Scott, a Hilton Head resident.

On the new map, voters living in Charleston County were split between the First Congressional District, currently held by Republican Nancy Mace, and the Sixth Congressional District, currently held by Jim Clyburn, the only Democrat in the state’s Congressional delegation.

Plaintiffs claim the Republican-dominated state legislature unlawfully bleached the competitive First District to make it more Republican-friendly and packed Democratic-leaning Black voters into the already Democrat-friendly Sixth District.

They are asking the Supreme Court to affirm a lower court ruling that the map discriminates against Black voters, denies them equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, and violates the US Constitution as a racial gerrymander.

“Not being able to elect a representative truly affects my culture, being of the Gullah Geechee culture, being in the heart of the Gullah Geechee corridor,” Scott, the Hilton Head resident, said. “Just having a voice and an advocate for our community is important because without the people, we lose the culture.”

They want justices to force the state to redraw these lines, as the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year in a challenge brought against Alabama’s new Congressional map.

“This case is about Black voters resisting attempts to muzzle their political voice,” NAACP Legal Defense Fund Assistant Counsel Antonio L. Ingram II said.

But Republican leaders at the State House, against whom the lawsuit was brought, claim race was not their motivating factor in redrawing these lines.

“As members of the General Assembly and leaders of the General Assembly, we are defending our maps because we believe they were race-neutral and they were within the confines of the laws that have been established by the United States Supreme Court,” Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R – Sumter and a defendant, said in an interview.

Instead, they argue it was politics and that they fashioned the boundaries to maintain their hold on six of the state’s seven Congressional districts, which they say the court has upheld as legal.

Republican legislators want the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s ruling and allow the map to stay as it is.

“I think these are apples and oranges, and especially since the concept of partisan gerrymandering has been analyzed by the United States Supreme Court and said that those two don’t equal one another,” Smith said. “I feel confident that that is not going to prevail at the end of the day with the United States Supreme Court.”

Both parties have requested the Supreme Court rule by Jan. 1, given 2024 is an election year for the US House of Representatives, but justices have the ultimate say in when their ruling comes down.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace said, as a member of Congress, she has no say in how the lines are drawn for her district.

But she said she hopes this case gets settled sooner rather than later so candidates and voters in her district know where the boundaries are and who is in them.

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