Supreme Court sides with South Carolina Republicans in redistricting dispute


washington – The Supreme Court on Thursday maintained the lines of a South Carolina congressional district that a lower court had invalidated as an illegal racial gerrymander, handing a victory to Republican mapmakers who said they used politics, not race, as the predominant factor in drawing district boundaries.

The high court's 6-3 ruling reverses a decision by a three-judge district court that found Republican lawmakers used race incorrectly when they drew the 1st Congressional District, represented by Rep. Republican Nancy Mace.

In a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court's conservative justices said the district court's findings were “clearly erroneous.”

South Carolina Republicans and the state chapter of the NAACP had asked the justices to issue their decision in January to ensure clarity for voters in the 2024 election. Arguments in the case were held in October and to be among the first in the new mandate of the court.

But as January came and went without a decision, GOP officials asked the three-judge district court overseeing the case to halt its own January 2023 decision invalidating the 1st Congressional District lines , what agreed to do In March The justices' order allowed the state to use the map it found to be racially rigged for upcoming congressional contests. The statewide primary is scheduled for June 11.

Congressional Map of South Carolina

Located along South Carolina's southeastern coast and anchored in Charleston County, voters in Congressional District 1 have elected Republicans to the House from 1980 to 2016. Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in 2018 in an upset, but Mace claimed a narrow victory in the following Congress. choice

During the redistricting process that began in 2021, Republican lawmakers wanted to give the district a stronger GOP tilt. To achieve that goal, they moved more than 140,000 residents out of the district and into the 6th Congressional District, long represented by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn.

The new voting map was enacted in January 2022, and Mace won re-election that November by a wider margin than two years earlier. But the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP and a voter in the district challenged the boundaries of Congressional District 1 as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and alleged that the district was drawn with intent to discriminate racially.

After an eight-day trial, the three-judge panel agreed, concluding that GOP lawmakers impermissibly used racial targeting and classified voters primarily by race to achieve a partisan result.

The justices found that Republican cartographers set a target of 17 percent of the black voting-age population in the 1st Congressional District and moved more than 30,000 black residents into the 6th Congressional District to produce a stronger Republican tilt. The district court blocked the state from holding elections with the GOP-drawn map for the 1st Congressional District.

South Carolina Republicans appealed the panel's decision last February, arguing that the district court failed to separate race from politics. Lawmakers said politics was the main motivating factor they considered during redistricting, which is permissible after the Supreme Court in 2019 said federal courts could not hear claims of partisan gerrymandering, the practice of draw up voting maps to consolidate the party in power.

The battle for Congressional District 1 is the latest to come before the high court that arose after the 2021 redistricting process. The justices in September 2023 applications rejected by Alabama officials to use a congressional map drawn by state Republicans in the 2024 election, which a lower court said likely violated federal law.

This decision came after the high court confirmed a sentence which invalidated the boundaries of the state's seven congressional districts. As a result, federal judges in October selected a new congressional map that will give the state a second district where black voters make up a significant portion of the electorate.

Similar conflicts over voting lines Georgia, Louisiana i Florida have also been played out, and a new map drawn in Louisiana could give Democrats an edge in the November election as Republicans seek to retain control of the House. The Supreme Court earlier this month cleared the way for Louisiana to use for the next election a congressional map that includes a second district where the majority of voters are black, giving them the opportunity to choose their preferred candidate.


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