House staff’s Congressional map proposal presented as SC’s redistricting process continues

The biggest changes in a proposed Congressional map drawn by South Carolina House of...
The biggest changes in a proposed Congressional map drawn by South Carolina House of Representatives staff involves the state's 1st, 2nd and 6th districts. Most of the public comment heard Thursday concerned the Lowcountry.(WIS)
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 5:00 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The redistricting process that determines how each South Carolinian is represented on Capitol Hill continues along as lawmakers work out the final map that needs to be redrawn.

Members of the public gave their feedback Thursday on a new Congressional map proposal, this one drawn by South Carolina House of Representatives staff, at a House Redistricting Subcommittee meeting in Columbia.

The nonpartisan Princeton Gerrymandering Project says this proposal would keep the number of competitive Congressional districts in the state at one, the 1st Congressional District, represented by Republican Nancy Mace, out of South Carolina’s seven total districts. That district has flipped from Republican-held to Democrat-held back to Republican-held all since 2018, whereas the state’s other districts are currently considered locks for one party — the 6th for Democrats, and the rest for Republicans.

However, the House staff plan would redraw boundaries across a large swath of the state, especially involving the 1st, 2nd, and 6th districts, the latter two of which are currently held by Republican Joe Wilson and Democrat Jim Clyburn, respectively.

In the Midlands, the proposal would move significant portions of Richland, Orangeburg, and Sumter counties to new districts.

None of Richland County would belong in the 2nd district, as parts of the county currently do, with Clyburn’s 6th district gaining more of north Richland County and the 5th district, now represented by Republican Ralph Norman, extending into most of the area in Richland in Wilson’s district.

Orangeburg County, currently split between the 2nd and 6th districts, would belong wholly in the 6th under this plan, as would Sumter County, which is now divided between the 5th and 6th districts.

But most of the public testimony Thursday concerned the Lowcountry.

This plan would keep North Charleston in Clyburn’s district, separated from the rest of Charleston County in Mace’s district, as it currently is.

“Why in the world can anyone justify splitting Charleston County into two districts?” former 1st District Congressman and current Democratic gubernatorial candidate Joe Cunningham said. “Let’s face it. We all know why. It’s because North Charleston is majority African-American, and the goal, clearly, is to pack as many Black voters into one enormous Black district so that all the other districts around it are lily-white.”

“North Charleston, we don’t believe, belongs with Columbia in a district. It belongs with Charleston,” Lynn Teague of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina added.

The House staff proposal would also move Beaufort County into a different district, the 2nd, than the rest of its Lowcountry neighbors on the coast in the 1st.

“We are a coastal county the same as Charleston. We share in the storms. We share in these beautiful waterways,” a Hilton Head resident said.

The House staff proposal seemed to be better received and would make more substantial changes to South Carolina’s Congressional districts than the proposal drawn by state Senate staff, which was presented in late November.

The Senate staff plan, described as a “minimal-change plan,” has been sharply criticized, with claims that it is gerrymandered and leaves none of South Carolina’s Congressional districts competitive.

“Many of my friends have laughed at the quote in the newspaper from me that this is not a terrible map,” Teague said of the House staff proposal Thursday. “And it is not one that we can be enthusiastic about, although we will say the numbers are not terrible.”

House Redistricting Subcommittee Chair Jay Jordan, (R – Florence), said the subcommittee would meet once more after Christmas to incorporate public testimony before it approves a plan to send to the House Judiciary Committee.

“The working draft plan is merely a starting point. I’ll say that again: It is a starting point.”

Jordan reiterated their goal in this redistricting process is to draw boundaries that ensure equal voting rights of one person, one vote. Because of population changes over the last 10 years, the current map no longer guarantees equal representation, as parts of the state have lost population, while some have grown at a more significant rate than others.

“In order to fully comply with federal law, we intend to draft a map with all seven federal Congressional districts in this state within one person of the ideal population,” Jordan said.

Both the House and Senate need to approve the state’s final Congressional map, as they have recently done with the new House and Senate maps.

State legislative leaders have said they do not intend to bring these Congressional map votes until at least January when they return to Columbia for their regular legislative session.

The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run for the seats that will be determined by these new boundaries is at the end of March.

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