By Lynn Teague
The House has adopted its Congressional plan. On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet to consider two alternatives and will send one to the floor for a vote. After that, the two houses will go to conference committee to adopt a common plan to go back to the houses for final approval, and then to the Governor for signature. All of this will move fast, within a few weeks. So, what are the plans under consideration and what can we say about them?
The House plan and one of the Senate plans, Senate Amendment 1 (SA1), have a lot in common. They are somewhat similar to the existing Congressional map, although they are less competitive than the current map, which allows the southern coastal district, CD 1, to vary in partisan representation. These proposals would make CD 1 solidly Republican. leaving no South Carolina Congressional districts to be decided in November. Senate Amendment 2 (SA2) is very different, reimagining our Congressional map altogether. It is more competitive than either the current map or the two others under consideration, allowing both CD 1 and CD 5 to be decided in general elections while keeping both Charleston and Beaufort counties whole in CD 1. It is far superior to the other maps in every standard measure of redistricting proposal fairness.
Some of those testifying in the Senate Subcommittee hearing last week said that they support SA 1 because it keeps Beaufort in that district and “keeps the Lowcountry whole.” SA 1 does not keep the Lowcountry whole. The SA 1 map drives CD 6 south through Berkeley and Charleston counties to encompass parts of West Ashley and ALL of the Charleston peninsula and North Charleston. Mt. Pleasant and James Island are contiguous only by water. Both Charleston and North Charleston would be in a district with Columbia, a hundred miles away. What is happening here? There is an obvious clue. Like the House proposal and an earlier Senate proposal, SA 1 would reduce the Black Voting Age Population (BVAP) in CD 1 to about 17%, far lower than the black population of either Charleston County, which is 26% black, or Berkeley County which is 25% black. This is a racial gerrymander.
In contrast, SA 2 has a BVAP of 21%. The map proposal submitted by the League of Women Voters has a BVAP of 23%. Both these proposals keep Charleston County whole and in so doing produce a CD 1 that is competitive between the parties within a 1% range, the natural product of the racially and politically diverse community of interest made up of Charleston and its satellite cities and suburbs. SA 2 achieves this while keeping Beaufort County in CD 1, but whether Beaufort is in or out of CD 1, there is no rational argument that the Lowcountry is “whole” when the Charleston peninsula, in whole or in part, is carved out from CD 1.
One of those testifying last week was an Asian American resident of Hilton Head who asserted that minorities do not need special consideration in drawing Congressional maps, that they share the same interests as everyone else on the coast – such as the preservation of sea turtle eggs. However, throughout the redistricting process we have also heard from many black residents of South Carolina who do not agree and who ask that their voting influence not be diluted by gerrymandered maps like these. The voters they speak for are concerned about affordable housing, access to health care, and adequate wages, which are not concerns universally shared by residents of gated golf communities.
This week we will learn what map the Senate will pass, and then we will see whether South Carolina is once again embroiled in legal challenges to maps designed to dilute the influence of minority voters – especially black minority voters – and make all voters obsolete in November through non-competitive maps that decide our general elections in the map room, not the polling booth.
To see the plans for yourself, go to House and Senate redistricting websites or to:
- House – https://davesredistricting.org/maps#stats::8a828199-ae6c-4b5f-8395-73267e1b4156
- SA 1 – https://davesredistricting.org/maps#stats::b76ac02e-37d6-40ec-821b-7176f733c0b2
- SA 2 – https://davesredistricting.org/maps#viewmap::eef78c6a-d186-4041-9345-05170842aedb
Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.