On October 12 2021, LDF and civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit challenging the South Carolina legislature’s unnecessary delay in drawing new redistricting maps that respect the constitutional one-person-one-vote principle.
South Carolina NAACP v. McMaster is a federal lawsuit challenging South Carolina’s racially gerymandered state and House legislative maps. The lawsuit charges that the maps intentionally discriminate against Black communities in the state and deny Black voters equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.
The case was brought on behalf of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and individual voters, who are represented by LDF, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of South Carolina, Boroughs Bryant LLC, and Arnold & Porter. The case, South Carolina Conference of the NAACP v. McMaster, was filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C. Read the full complaint here.
In a victory for voting rights, South Carolina passed maps adjusting South Carolina state House district lines in some of the most historically significant areas of the state for Black voters by passing new maps this session in response to our lawsuit. The settlement maps signed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in June 2022 reverses the packing and cracking of Black voters in Orangeburg, Richland, Kershaw, Dillon, and Horry counties.
South Carolina’s maps have been litigated every decade since 1970 — in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s — and each time it took several months for the court to hear the cases. The first complaint, filed in October 2021, challenges the Legislature’s decision to adjourn and unnecessary delay in drawing new redistricting maps that respect the constitutional one-person-one-vote principle. This decision and delay make it nearly impossible for any courts to evaluate the legal validity of their maps before the March 30 filing deadline for the 2022 primary elections. The complaint spotlights how the state congressional, House, and Senate districts have severe population imbalances because they are currently based on 2010 population data.
LDF filed an amended complaint in December 2021. This new filing amends the existing lawsuit to reflect the passage earlier this month of House Bill 4493, which adopted a racially gerrymandered state House district maps that intentionally cracks and packs Black communities. The updated suit reiterates the need to pass a constitutionally compliant congressional map, which has yet to happen.
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. This new filing amends the existing lawsuit to reflect the belated passage late last month of Senate Bill 865 (S.B. 865), which, like its counterpart in the House, adopted a racially gerrymandered map—this time for Congress, 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.
“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 and the pre-approval process that required states with histories of racial discrimination redistricting to seek approval from the federal government before implementing plans. The absence of the federal government’s pre-approval process is a major detriment to voters of color going into this next redistricting cycle.
Earlier this year, LDF, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, and MALDEF released Power on the Line(s): Making Redistricting Work for Us, a guide to familiarize you with what redistricting is all about, and to provide you with ways you can make sure your voice is heard in the redistricting process for the seats that affect you. The appendix to the guide explains how you can get involved in the redistricting process in your state.