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    HomePoliticsSupreme Court sets date for SC racial gerrymandering case | Palmetto Politics

    Supreme Court sets date for SC racial gerrymandering case | Palmetto Politics

    The U.S. Supreme Court this fall will hear oral arguments in a case that could fundamentally reshape South Carolina’s congressional map along the coast and determine whether the current political lines discriminate against Black voters in Charleston.

    A calendar released July 14 by the nation’s highest court shows the oral arguments in South Carolina’s racial gerrymandering case is scheduled for Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.

    The outcome of the case, Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, could determine whether a different congressional map will be in place in 2024 for voters in Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties covering the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace.

    South Carolina Republican officials have asked the high court to intervene in the case after a lower court said the map had unconstitutionally “exiled” 30,000 Black voters for partisan gain.

    Attorneys bringing the suit asked the court to schedule oral arguments at the beginning of its new term in October and issue a decision by Jan. 1 to ensure that the 2024 elections can proceed smoothly.

    In May, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal filed by Republican leadership in the Statehouse behind the most recent congressional district remapping tied to the 2020 census.

    In their 29-page filing, attorneys argued the original findings by the U.S. District Court in Charleston were “riddled with legal and factual mistakes” and misapplied the law.

    They further alleged the citizen plaintiffs in the case failed to provide “direct evidence of a racial gerrymander” and therefore “needed to rely on forgone alternatives” to prove their claims.

    It will be the latest in a string of recent redistricting case heard by the Supreme Court, including a case involving Alabama’s congressional map. In a 5-4 decision just a few weeks ago, the court found the state’s GOP legislature had violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act when they drew congressional maps that gave Black voters, who represent a quarter of the electorate, a majority in just one of the state’s seven districts. 

    The initial South Carolina lawsuit stemmed from an amended complaint filed in 2022 by the South Carolina chapter of the NAACP and Taiwan Scott, a Hilton Head Island resident and a Black constituent who lives in the 1st District.

    The suit accused state Republican lawmakers of unconstitutionally redrawing lines for the state’s 1st, 2nd and 5th congressional seats to disadvantage Black voters — a violation of the 14th and 15th amendments.

    In their unanimous decision, the panel of federal judges did not find constitutional violations in the 2nd and 5th districts. But when it came to the coastal 1st District, the three federal judges who heard the case concluded the district lines reduced the overall Black percentage in the 1st District for political gain.

    The judges ruled that Republicans had “bleached” Black voters out of an increasingly diverse — and increasingly competitive —congressional district.

    The lawmakers contend the panel of judges “ignored the obvious political explanation, confirmed by the 2020 election data, for maintaining the Charleston County split,” saying that it was “never mentioned that Charleston County has been split in every congressional districting plan since 1994.”

    Their map was “the only plan presented at trial that achieved the General Assembly’s political objective,” they said and that alternate maps would “harm that objective by turning District 1 into a majority-Democratic district.”

    South Carolina’s 1st District has long been a reliable seat for Republicans in ruby-red South Carolina. That briefly changed in 2018 when Democrat Joe Cunningham flipped the seat out of GOP control for the first time in nearly 40 years. 

    In 2020, the seat returned to GOP control with Mace narrowly winning the election in what had become a rare competitive congressional district in South Carolina. Her margin of victory over Cunningham was 1.27 percentage points.

    Under the new district lines, Mace, R-Isle of Palms, easily won her 2022 reelection bid by 14 percentage points against Democrat Annie Andrews.

    By procedure, the justices favor hearing two, one-hour oral arguments per case, according the to the court’s web page, with lawyers for each side given 30 minutes to make their presentations and answer questions posed by the justices.

    Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-998-5404 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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