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SC Senate passes Congressional map that’s expected to solidify Republican advantage

Sen. Luke Rankin, R – Horry, speaks during a redistricting debate at the State House on Jan....
Sen. Luke Rankin, R – Horry, speaks during a redistricting debate at the State House on Jan. 20, 2022.(Live 5)
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 8:24 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - After nearly five hours of debate Thursday, the South Carolina Senate passed a controversial Congressional map in the state’s redistricting process.

The map, passed 26-15 along party lines, is expected to solidify Republicans’ current 6-1 advantage in the state’s seven Congressional seats.

Much of the debate focused on two questions: To what extent should state lawmakers — who are responsible for drawing South Carolina’s new Congressional, state Senate, and state House of Representatives boundaries every 10 years using new U.S. Census data — try to keep the state’s new Congressional map similar to its current map, and how should the Charleston area be represented?

The map passed by the Senate keeps Charleston County split into two districts, the 1st, represented by Republican Nancy Mace, and the 6th, represented by Democrat Jim Clyburn. Mace’s seat, which has flipped from Republican-held to Democrat-held to Republican-held since 2018, is currently the state’s only competitive district but would be expected to become solid red under the Senate’s approved plan.

“I’ve engaged with the people I represent, the majority of the people of Charleston County, and unequivocally, the majority want to be left whole,” Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D – Charleston, said during debate. “They don’t want to be in a hodgepodge of 17 other counties.”

The Republicans who spoke in favor of the map said its lines were drawn along geographic boundaries, such as waterways, and it kept much of the tri-county area of Charleston, Dorchester, and Berkeley counties, which have been historically connected, in the same district.

They also said the map would keep more voters in their current districts, calling it a “benchmark” or “minimal-change plan.” The Senate map is similar to a version the state House of Representatives passed last week as well.

“Wouldn’t you want Charleston County to be whole if you had that choice?” Sen. Dick Harpootlian, D – Richland, asked Sen. Chip Campsen, R – Charleston. “Wouldn’t you want —”

“Actually, senator, no,” Campsen responded, adding after a brief exchange, “I’d rather have two Congressmen advocating for my county than one, and so I don’t think it’s terrible that that happened.”

After the Senate approved the minimal-change plan, Harpootlian proposed his own map, which he said was backed by other Senate Democrats, that would have more significantly altered the current Congressional map and kept more counties whole instead of being split among multiple districts.

Harpootlian acknowledged during debate that his amendment was not likely to pass — it and every other subsequent amendment were tabled by the Republican majority — but said he believed the advanced plan would result in South Carolina being sued, as the state has been in each of the last five redistricting cycles.

“It’s just a shame to me that we will be embarrassed once again, and it will be a blemish on this body,” Harpootlian said.

The map will next head back to the House for a vote.

If the House agrees on the same map the Senate approved, it would head to Gov. Henry McMaster’s desk to be signed into law for the next 10 years, barring legal challenges.

If the House does not concur with the Senate map, then a smaller group of Senate and House members would form a conference committee, which would be tasked with coming up with a compromise to send to the governor.

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