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SC House Maps Under Scrutiny Over Race 11/29 06:10

   

   (AP) -- A trial to determine whether South Carolina's congressional maps are 
legal closes Tuesday with arguments over whether the state Legislature diluted 
Black voting power by remaking the boundaries of the only U.S. House district 
Democrats have flipped in more than 30 years.

   The trial also marks the first time the South Carolina maps have been 
legally scrutinized since the U.S. Supreme Court removed part of a 1965 law 
that required the state to get federal approval to protect against 
discriminatory redistricting proposals.

   A panel of three federal judges will hear closing arguments in the case in 
Charleston. A ruling is expected later.

   The Republican-dominated General Assembly redrew the maps early this year 
based on the 2020 U.S. census, and they were used in this month's midterm 
elections.

   According to a lawsuit filed by the NAACP, the new boundaries 
unconstitutionally split Black voters in the state's 1st, 2nd and 5th Districts 
and packed them all into the 6th District, which already had a majority of 
African American voters.

   The civil rights group has asserted during months of arguments that the 
General Assembly's actions not only diluted Black voting strength, but also 
strengthened the 6-to-1 advantage Republicans have in the state's U.S. House 
delegation. The last time a Democrat flipped a U.S. House seat was in 2018. 
Before that Democrats hadn't won a seat from Republican control since 1986.

   The new congressional districts "render Black voters unable to meaningfully 
influence congressional elections in those districts," the NAACP lawyers allege 
in the lawsuit.

   Attorneys for state lawmakers said the 1st District had to have changes 
because much of South Carolina's more than 10% population growth from 2010 to 
2020 happened along the coast.

   The Legislature also insisted it followed guidance the U.S. Supreme Court 
laid out in 2013 when it overturned a provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act 
requiring South Carolina and eight other mostly Southern states to get federal 
approval when they redrew district maps.

   "The General Assembly did not improperly use race in drawing any district or 
in enacting any redistricting plan," the Legislature's attorneys wrote. "The 
General Assembly may have been aware of race in drawing districts and 
redistricting plans, but such awareness does not violate the Constitution or 
law."

   The crux of the NAACP argument is that the Legislature ignored "communities 
of interest" in several regions of the state: places where voters share 
economic, social, historic or political bonds or are located within the same 
geographic or government boundaries.

   They cited several plans lawmakers did not adopt that would have kept 
Charleston and surrounding areas entirely in the 1st District instead of 
breaking off some areas with significant African American populations and 
putting them into the 6th District.

   Republican U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace won under the old map in 2020 by 1.3 
percentage points. Under the new map, she won reelection to the 1st District 
earlier this month by 13.9 percentage points.

 
 
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