Legal Challenges Expected Over South Carolina’s New Congressional District Map

January 31, 2022 by Dan McCue
<strong>Legal Challenges Expected Over South Carolina’s New Congressional District Map</strong>
South Carolina Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, looks over a map during a House redistricting committee public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. Govan was put into a district with another incumbent in the proposed House map. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A new congressional district map signed into law by South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Henry McMaster is being blasted by its critics as perhaps one of the most blatant examples of GOP gerrymandering ahead of the 2022 election cycle.

At issue is the decision by the Republicans who oversaw the mapmaking process to divide the city of Charleston. 

As a result, many Democratic lawmakers and others in the state say, the GOP has packed too many Black voters into the heavily Democratic 6th Congressional District represented by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, and greatly improved Nancy Mace’s chances of reelection in the 1st Congressional District.

Republicans in the state maintain they largely tried to avoid wholesale changes to the seven districts in the previous map, six of which reliably elect members of their party. 

The challenge in trying to do so when it came to Clyburn’s and Mace’s districts, Republican Party officials said, speaking on background, is that geographic shifts made it nearly impossible to keep the lines of those districts, which abut each other, near where they were.

Because congressional districts within states are supposed to be roughly the same size, more than 123,000 people living in Charleston County, a hat-shaped municipality containing the cities of Charleston and North Charleston, were moved from Mace’s district into Clyburn’s.

Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham is a Democratic candidate for governor. (Photo by Jeffrey Collins/AP)

Among those expressing skepticism about the GOP’s claims is former Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who wrote in an op-ed in Charleston’s The Post and Courier newspaper recently that the rapid population growth in coastal South Carolina in the past decade has turned the 1st Congressional District into a competitive swing district.

“I won the district by one percentage point in 2018. Two years later, I lost it by one point. Now, lawmakers are yet again trying to move the goalposts to ensure a Democrat cannot win,” he wrote.

Cunningham, who is currently running in a Democratic primary in hopes of challenging McMaster in this year’s gubernatorial contest, claims the population shift from Mace’s to Clyburn’s district now gives Republicans a 17-point built-in advantage.

“If that’s not stealing an election, I don’t know what is,” he said.

It should be noted that Cunningham is the founder of an organization called Keep Charleston Together, which is funded by Joe for South Carolina, the same campaign committee supporting his bid for governor.

But that said, his numbers are in line with a recent analysis by the nonpartisan FiveThirtyEight website, which also has Mace’s district rated R+17 and Clyburn’s district at D+25.

“Under the new proposed House map, South Carolina would be left without a single competitive congressional district,” he continued. “When politicians have no incentive to appeal to voters outside of their base and are concerned only with winning their party’s primary, they become more partisan and extreme, and Congress becomes even more dysfunctional.”

According to the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the new map is “tailor made” for a legal challenge by the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union, though neither has acted yet.

The Well News has attempted to contact both organizations about the congressional district map, but has not received a response from either.

In December, the two entities sued South Carolina over its then-newly drawn state House maps, which they claim discriminated against Black people by diluting their voting power.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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