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SC House map faces one final vote in redistricting process after Judiciary Committee’s approval

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 7:40 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2021 at 7:48 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina’s redistricting process passed another major milestone Tuesday, when the House Judiciary Committee signed off on a new map for the state’s 124 House districts.

That map now awaits final approval from the entire House of Representatives, then Gov. Henry McMaster’s signature, to become law for the next 10 years.

While the House Judiciary Committee signed off on the map Tuesday less than an hour into its meeting, the new boundaries have not been without challenges so far in the process.

Last week, the House Redistricting Subcommittee’s final meeting lasted more than four-and-a-half hours, as committee members heard public comment on the initial draft. During the meeting, critics argued the map divided too many counties into multiple districts, left too few districts competitive, and protected incumbents too much.

“On the face of it, the House proposal appears to be an extreme gerrymander,” Lynn Teague of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina said during the subcommittee meeting.

But the map approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday — in a vote of 21 representatives in favor, two against, and two abstaining — largely resembled the draft that drew so much criticism last week.

They did make a handful of changes, predominantly what committee members called “housekeeping” adjustments, such as to complete voting precincts. Member said those amendments will still keep the population of each district within 5% of each other, as they are required to be to ensure South Carolinians’ votes count equally.

One of the main changes adopted Tuesday was with the city of Orangeburg, which the initial map divided into three districts.

“We heard concerns from the public, as well as written submissions, about the splits in Orangeburg,” Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland, said. “This amendment has the split, the city split into two districts, District 90 and 95, rather than three, and this also enhances the ability of minority groups in the area to elect their candidate of choice.”

Speaker of the House Jay Lucas would need to call House members to Columbia for a special session for the map’s final vote to happen in the next two months, before the full General Assembly is scheduled to return in January for its regular legislative session.

Lucas has not called for a special session yet, and his office said Tuesday afternoon that there was no update on if and when this might happen.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has not yet set a date to vote on its proposed map, and the Senate Redistricting Subcommittee also has not yet released its draft for the state’s new Congressional districts.

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