South Carolina NAACP v. Alexander (formerly South Carolina NAACP v. McMaster) is a racial-gerrymandering challenge to South Carolina’s congressional and legislative redistricting maps for the Congressional District 1. The case challenges the constitutionality of how South Carolina legislators handled the redistricting process after the 2020 census. LDF, the ACLU of South Carolina, and Arnold & Porter challenged the map on behalf of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and an individual voter, Taiwan Scott.
South Carolina’s Congressional map is racially discriminatory and selectively targets and splits Black communities. The South Carolina Legislature engineered its new map to cut through Black communities to suppress Black voting power. The map dilutes the voting power of Black South Carolinians and denies them a chance to elect congressional members outside of one lone district.
Plaintiffs alleged that when South Carolina’s General Assembly enacted S.865, they deliberately adopted an unconstitutional and racially gerrymandered map in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of Fourteenth Amendment. They alleged that the map intentionally discriminates against Black voters and denies Black voters’ equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.
On January 6, 2023, a federal court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, asserting that a district anchored in Charleston County is a “stark racial gerrymander” and ordering South Carolina to redraw its 2021 enacted map. The unanimous three-judge-panel ruled that the Legislature unconstitutionally set out to achieve an artificially-low target Black population in Congressional District 1, which includes Charleston County, in violation of the 14th Amendment.
The State appealed this verdict, moving the case to the Supreme Court. Oral argument is scheduled for October 11, 2023. The case will be argued by LDF Senior Counsel Leah Aden.
South Carolina’s congressional map is the latest instance in the state’s long, painful history of racial discrimination that must be remedied. South Carolina’s maps have been litigated every decade since 1970.
It is crucial that every voter is fairly represented in our democracy, and in turn, that South Carolina’s district maps are drawn in line with the Constitution and federal law. Unfair mapping and gerrymandering weaken community power by denying certain groups the ability to choose a candidate of their choice to fight for the needs of their community.
Redistricting and congressional representation directly affect the funding and resources a county or city receives, from health care to education and everything in between. Discriminatory redistricting limits voters’ access to representatives who can advocate for economic development, affordable housing, healthcare, education (including for historically Black colleges and universities), and broadband internet.
In December 2021, LDF and c0-counsel filed a lawsuit on behalf of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and an individual voter, Taiwan Scott challenging South Carolina’s 2021 congressional map as a racial gerrymander. The lawsuit charges that South Carolina’s congressional map is discriminatorily drawn and fails to comply with the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit charges that the congressional map passed by the legislature intentionally packs and cracks Black communities and denies Black voters’ equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.
The same groups filed a federal lawsuit in October 2021 challenging the South Carolina Legislature’s unnecessary delay in drawing new redistricting maps that respect the constitutional one-person-one-vote principle. The South Carolina Legislature passed H. 4493 in a flawed and non-transparent process that prevented meaningful and necessary community input and review, including the legislature’s refusal to consider alternative maps that complied with the U.S. Constitution and federal law.
LDF filed a second amended complaint in February 2022, amending the existing lawsuit to reflect the belated passage of Senate Bill 865 (S.B. 865), which, like its counterpart in the House, adopted a racially gerrymandered congressional map that intentionally cracks and packs Black communities. S.B. 865 shuffles voters into electoral districts based on their race in order to prevent Black voters from impacting more than one congressional election statewide.
South Carolina NAACP v. Alexander went to trial in November 2022. During an eight-day trial, fact and expert witnesses provided a robust recording demonstrating the flawed and non-transparent redistricting process and the resulting new congressional map’s harmful effects on Black voters’ electoral opportunities. Plaintiffs highlighted how the state’s legislature engineered its new map cutting through Black communities to suppress Black voting power — and demonstrated how white lawmakers hid behind arbitrary, shifting, and tenuous justifications to achieve their discriminatory actions. Experts in demography, political science, redistricting, and mathematics described the unique harm that the current congressional map has on Black voters’ ability to elect their candidates of choice compared to race-neutral alternative map options, lending further support to the strong evidence of unconstitutional line-drawing by the state.
On January 6, 2023, the federal court issued its ruling and ordered South Carolina to redraw its 2021 enacted congressional map, ruling that a district anchored in Charleston County is a racial gerrymander. The unanimous panel ruled that the Legislature unconstitutionally set out to achieve an artificially-low target Black population in Congressional District 1, which includes Charleston County. The court held this violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment. A unanimous panel acknowledged the principle that “[s]tate legislators are free to consider a broad array of factors in the design of a legislative district, including partisanship, but they may not use race as a predominant factor and may not use partisanship as a proxy for race,” as they did in designing aspects of South Carolina’s congressional map. the court found that aspects of South Carolina’s congressional map had “bleached” Black voters out of a district and made a “mockery” of traditional districting principles.
In May 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court said it will hear South Carolina’s appeal to the federal court ruling ordering the legislature to redraw its congressional map. Oral argument is scheduled for October 11, 2023. LDF Senior Counsel Leah Aden will present oral argument.
New political maps are drawn as part of the once-in-a-decade redistricting process triggered by census data. Redistricting is the process of redrawing district maps that shape legislative, congressional, and political power. These maps determine where you can vote
Redistricting encompasses the process by which states and the jurisdictions within them redraw the district maps that shape legislative, congressional, and local power. Where district lines are drawn can determine where residents can vote, whom they can vote for, and even how responsive elected officials are to constituents’ requests and how resources are allocated.
“Cracking” refers to splitting communities of color into different districts to prevent them from exercising greater political power. “Packing” refers to placing people of color into the same district in greater numbers than necessary to elect candidates of choice to prevent them from exercising greater political power in surrounding districts.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder effectively dismantled Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and the pre-approval process that required states with histories of racial discrimination in redistricting to seek approval from the federal government before implementing plans. The absence of the federal preclearance process is a major detriment to voters of color.