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Thursday, March 28, 2024

South Carolina to use congressional map deemed unconstitutional - The Washington Post

South Carolina to use congressional map deemed unconstitutional

"The Supreme Court heard arguments on the redistricting case in October but has yet to rule, essentially running out the clock for this year’s election

South Carolina stat Sen. Nikki Setzler (D) looks at a map of suggested U.S. House districts drawn with 2020 U.S. census data on Jan. 20, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (Jeffrey Collins/AP)

A federal court ruled Thursday that time had run out to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina and said the state could use its existing map this year even though it had earlier determined that map was unconstitutional.

The panel of three judges last year concluded that South Carolina’s Republican-led legislature “exiled” 30,000 Black voters from the district to make it safer for a White GOP incumbent, Rep. Nancy Mace.

South Carolina appealed, and both sides asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case to ensure a final ruling was in place well ahead of election season. The justices heard arguments in October but have yet to rule.

With no decision and the June 11 primary on the horizon, South Carolina sought permission to use the map this year even though it had been deemed unconstitutional. The panel of judges unanimously agreed Thursday to keep the map in place for this election.

It noted that courts typically don’t allow maps to be used once they have been found to be invalid. “But with the primary election procedures rapidly approaching, the appeal before the Supreme Court still pending, and no remedial plan in place, the ideal must bend to the practical,” the judges wrote.

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If the Supreme Court later upholds the lower court ruling, then new maps would have to be drawn for the 2026 election.

Last year the panel, which consists of two judges nominated by President Barack Obama and one by President Biden, found the map illegally split neighborhoods in the Charleston area to make Mace’s race easier. The new lines constituted a racial gerrymander that “exiled over 30,000 African American citizens from their previous district,” the panel found.

In arguments before the Supreme Court in October, attorneys for South Carolina argued that state lawmakers had not relied on race to draw maps in violation of the Constitution. Rather, they used political information to help them decide where to place the lines, they said.

During arguments, a majority of the Supreme Court appeared inclined to reinstate the lines the state had wanted. Five months later, the justices have yet to rule. Both sides had asked the justices to rule by January.

By hanging onto the case, the Supreme Court had effectively allowed the clock to run out for this year’s election.

Candidates must file paperwork to run by Monday and ballots must be sent to military and overseas voters by April 27 under federal law. That timeline led the panel of judges to let the state keep its congressional map for this year."

South Carolina to use congressional map deemed unconstitutional - The Washington Post

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