Alternate plan draws fire in S.C. congressional redistricting process
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As South Carolina’s redistricting process moves closer to completion, staff from the state House of Representatives and Senate have drawn up drafts for their respective members to consider as they work toward developing South Carolina’s new Congressional map.
This map, along with the state’s House and Senate maps, must be redrawn every 10 years using new U.S. Census data to ensure district populations are about equal. Both the updated House and Senate maps have been signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster, but the House map already faces one legal challenge.
On Wednesday, a second, alternate House staff map was presented at a House Redistricting Subcommittee meeting in Columbia.
After the subcommittee heard public testimony on the initial staff proposal before Christmas, one lawmaker said during Wednesday’s meeting that she did not even know this second proposal was in the works.
“I just don’t know why we are even entertaining this alternative map, unbeknownst to me as a committee member,” Rep. Beth Bernstein, D – Richland, said.
House Redistricting Subcommittee Chair Jay Jordan, R – Florence, said the alternate map was drawn after taking into account public feedback regarding the first staff proposal. That map garnered pushback from Hilton Head and Beaufort County residents at a Dec. 16 meeting for putting Beaufort County in a different Congressional district than other Lowcountry counties along the Atlantic coastline. Those residents argued their communities shared the same interests, so they should have the same representation on Capitol Hill.
The alternate proposal keeps Beaufort County in the same district, Congressional District 1, as its coastal neighbors.
“It’s a starting point for the conversation for the committee to consider the different pros and cons of the different concepts of where these district lines need to be drawn,” Jordan said of the new map proposal.
During Wednesday’s conversation, no members of the public spoke in favor of the alternate map.
“This committee’s proposed Congressional maps are flawed in several material ways,” South Carolina NAACP Conference President Brenda Murphy said.
“We believe that it is an obvious racial and partisan gerrymander and should be rejected,” Lynn Teague of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina added.
As with previous Congressional map drafts, most of the criticism centered around Charleston, as the alternate plan would keep Charleston County separated into multiple districts.
Critics argued it would pack Black voters in the North Charleston area into a largely African-American 6th District, currently held by Democrat Jim Clyburn, solidifying it as a Democrat-dominant district stretching from Columbia to the Atlantic Ocean.
“My community’s interests have nothing really in common with Lexington or Columbia area other than we’re in the same state,” Charleston County resident Gloria Aslanidis said.
Speakers also claimed the other district representing Charleston County in the new proposal, the 1st District, would become whiter and redder as an uncompetitive and solid district for Republicans.
That seat is South Carolina’s only currently competitive one, flipping from Republican-held to Democrat-held to Republican-held since 2018, and is now represented by Republican Nancy Mace.
“This is not right, downright unethical, and it’s not in the best interest of the Charleston area or Columbia for that matter,” Charleston Southern University student and Columbia native Samuel Grant said of the alternate map.
In November, Senate staff revealed they had received input on their Congressional map proposal from a national Republican group.
That Senate staff proposal is similar to the alternate House staff proposal and was also sharply criticized.
Bernstein asked Jordan during Wednesday’s meeting if any national partisan groups were consulted in drawing the House proposal.
“I don’t know if I would say they were consulted,” Jordan responded. “I would say their plans and inputs were received and, as a result, were available for consideration.”
Jordan said the subcommittee will likely meet one more time in the new year to discuss and approve a map to send up to the House Judiciary Committee.
The full House and Senate will need to approve one final map after they return to Columbia in January for their regular legislative session, with the filing deadline for candidates running in those redrawn Congressional districts at the end of March.
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