Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Supreme Court delay prompts federal judges to act over South Carolina redistricting dispute

By 37ci3 Mar28,2024

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court delayed ruling on a South Carolina redistricting case so long that a lower court was forced to step in, saying on Thursday that a congressional district it had previously ruled could be used in this year’s elections on a racial basis.

Last year, a federal court ruled that the Charleston district controlled by RSC Rep. Nancy Mays was illegally selected by excluding thousands of black voters.

But on Thursday, the same court said order that the map could be used for this year’s congressional elections.

The three-judge panel wrote that “with primary election procedures fast approaching, the appeal to the Supreme Court is still ongoing and with no plan for redress, the ideal must lean toward the practical.”

The decision is a setback for Democrats, who could have gotten a more favorable map if it had been redrawn.

The Supreme Court has spent months considering the merits of whether mapmakers should consider the race illegal, but has yet to issue a decision, despite both sides saying it should be resolved long before the election.

The justices also did not respond to an emergency appeal brought by Republican state officials, who asked that the existing map remain in place at least for now.

In the nine-month period from October to June, dominated by cases involving former President Donald Trump, justices issued only 11 decisions in controversial cases.

Oral arguments were in the South Carolina case held on October 11giving judges ample time to judge.

State officials claimed their sole purpose in drawing the map was to boost the district’s Republican leanings. But in January 2023, a lower court ruled that one of the state’s seven districts was dominated by race. Republicans led by South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander appealed the decision.

The three-judge panel said the state should take no action to draw a new map until the Supreme Court rules on the appeal — understanding the justices would act sooner.

Republicans redrawn the boundaries to strengthen GOP control of what has become a competitive district after the 2020 census. Democrat Joe Cunningham won the seat in 2018 and narrowly lost to Mays in 2020. Two years later, when the new map went into effect, Mace won by a wider margin.

The nearly 30,000 black voters expelled from the district, black Democratic Rep. Placed in district held by James Clyburn. It is the only one of the seven congressional districts held by Democrats.

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and other civil rights groups argued that Republicans not only made race illegal when they drew the maps, but also undermined the power of Black voters by doing so.

The lawsuits were filed under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which requires the law to be applied equally to all. The case arose under a different legal theory than that discussed in the main decision this year civil rights activists successfully challenged Republican-drawn maps in Alabama under the Voting Rights Act.

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By 37ci3

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