South Carolina will redraw its congressional maps after a panel of three federal judges ruled Friday that the state had racially gerrymandered its 1st Congressional District.
Three Democrat-appointed judges ruled the South Carolina lawmakers redistricted 30,000 black residents from Charleston County to a nearby county, saying it “was more than a coincidence,” according to the ruling. The judges stated that the move was racially motivated and violated the 14th amendment, referencing multiple Supreme Court rulings as precedent.
“After carefully weighing the totality of evidence in the record and credibility of witnesses, the Court finds that race was the predominant motivating factor in the General Assembly’s design of Congressional District No. 1 and that traditional districting principles were subordinated to race,” the judges said in the ruling.
Gerrymandering is the practice of moving the boundaries around certain districts to achieve a political outcome, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The practice gives an unfair advantage to one party, and in cases of racial gerrymandering, “dilutes” the votes of either “ethnic or linguistic” groups.
Following the decision, South Carolina lawmakers will have until March 31 to submit an updated map, and any election will be postponed until a new map has been approved, according to the ruling.
In 2018, Congressional District 1, a longtime Republican district, experienced a major upset as former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham defeated former Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington, according to The Hill. In 2020, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace narrowly defeated Cunningham by 1.3 percentage points, but in 2022, following the redistricting, she won the election by 14 points.
South Carolina’s NAACP chapter and Taiwan Scott, a resident of the 1st District, challenged the new maps, according to The Hill. The NAACP also challenged two other districts, claiming that they were racially gerrymandered, but the courts eventually dismissed the claims.
“For decades, South Carolina has tried to push Black voters out of the electoral process and effectively silence us with maps that dilute our political power,” Scott said in a statement, according to The Hill.“Today’s decision finally recognizes this egregious, generations-long effort to box us out of representation. While there is still a lot of work to be done, we are one step closer to rectifying South Carolina’s long history of voter suppression, and one step closer to the representation we deserve.”
The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP President Brenda Murphy called the decision a “crucial win,” according to The Hill.
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