In a victory for voting rights, South Carolina has 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 a lawsuit.
The move stems from the private settlement of a lawsuit filed by civil rights group that charged some of the new districts as intentionally discriminating against Black communities in the state by racially gerrymandering certain districts to dilute the power of Black voters and minimize their ability to influence elections. This is one of only a few settlements in the current redistricting cycle that has led to the passing of new maps for Black voters in a southern state.
The case was brought on behalf of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP (SC NAACP) who is represented by the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), the ACLU of South Carolina, Boroughs Bryant LLC, Arnold & Porter, and the General Counsel’s Office of the NAACP.
The lawsuit alleged racial gerrymandering and intentional discrimination in 29 districts aimed at diluting the voting power of Black voters.
The settlement maps signed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Friday reverses the packing and cracking of Black voters in Orangeburg, Richland, Kershaw, Dillon, and Horry counties.
South Carolina’s redistricting process has been challenged in every cycle since the passage of the Voting Rights Act and the groups are still headed to trial over the U.S. congressional map in late September.
The following comments are from:
South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP President Brenda Murphy: “This is a victory for the Black community in South Carolina. These new maps mark a historical occasion: our political leadership has listened to our grievances and is working to create a more equitable political landscape. We have successfully petitioned our government for increased political access, and now Black communities in Richland/Kershaw, Orangeburg, and Dillon/Horry will have access to more equitable political participation. But this is just a first step to providing equitable voting power for Black South Carolinians. We will continue to work with our elected officials to ensure that all our communities have a voice in our democratic institutions.”
LDF’s Deputy Director of Litigation Leah C. Aden remarked: “Black voters in South Carolina have new electoral maps in historical Black communities due to their engagement in the political process. The passage of these new settlement maps is the result of concerted efforts by Black South Carolinians to fight for their constitutional right to elect their own political representatives. These settlement maps will not only reallocate political power back to Black communities but will also serve as a notice that Black voters in South Carolina will continue to advocate for their rights and hold elected officials accountable.”
LDF Assistant Counsel John S. Cusick commented: “This is a rare and critical victory for those who wish to see the South Carolina Legislature fulfill its obligation to ensure equal representation for Black voters in South Carolina. During a flawed and non-transparent legislative process, the SC NAACP and partners urged legislators to pass fair and non-discriminatory maps that recognized Black South Carolinians’ right to electoral access throughout their state. That did not happen. However, these maps will increase electoral opportunities and voting access for Black South Carolinians in certain areas of the state, which must guide redistricting efforts moving forward.”
LDF Assistant Counsel Antonio L. Ingram II said: “The settlement maps signed into law last week will help remedy the ways in which Black South Carolinians have been historically and currently denied a seat at the table in South Carolina’s political process. The previous maps packed and cracked Black communities across South Carolina and muzzled their political voice. The revised electoral maps represent an important first step in working to counteract the discrimination Black voters face in South Carolina in certain counties. The fight for political equality for Black South Carolinians is far from over but these new settlement maps will help restore political power previously diluted by racially gerrymandered maps.”
The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C.
Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.