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Supreme Court allows South Carolina’s congressional maps

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(The Center Square) — The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld South Carolina’s new congressional maps following a challenge that claimed the new districts diluted the power of Black voters.

South Carolina officials redrew the state’s map following the 2020 Census because of population shifts in two of its seven congressional districts — District 1, which was overpopulated by 87,689 residents, and District 6, which was underpopulated by 84,741. Republican Rep. Nancy Mace holds the District 1 seat, while Democratic Rep. James Clyburn holds the District 6 seat.

“The District Court found that South Carolina drew District 1 with a racial ‘target,'” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “But the Challengers did not offer any direct evidence to support that conclusion, and indeed, the direct evidence that is in the record is to the contrary.”

In September 2021, Senate subcommittee members responsible for drawing the new map indicated the process would be guided by traditional districting principles and a goal of creating a stronger Republican majority in District 1. While the Republican-controlled Legislature aimed to increase the Republican vote share in District 1 by more than 1.3%, it also raised the Black voting-age population from nearly 16.6% to more than 16.7%.

The Legislature adopted the plan, and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed it.

However, the NAACP and a District 1 voter challenged the plan, alleging that it resulted in racial gerrymanders and the dilution of the electoral power of Black voters. A three-judge federal panel last year ruled against the state’s new map, prompting an appeal and Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, which concluded the lower court’s finding that race predominated the district’s design was “erroneous.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined in Alito’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas partially joined, while Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented.

“In every way, the majority today stacks the deck against the Challengers. They must lose, the majority says, because the State had a ‘possible’ story to tell about not considering race—even if the opposite story was the more credible,” Kagan wrote in a dissent. “…In the electoral sphere especially, where ‘ugly patterns of pervasive racial discrimination’ have so long governed, we should demand better— of ourselves, of our political representatives, and most of all of this Court.”

However, in his opinion, Thomas said creating political maps is a matter for politicians.

“In my view, the Court has no power to decide these types of claims. Drawing political districts is a task for politicians, not federal judges,” Thomas wrote. “There are no judicially manageable standards for resolving claims about districting, and, regardless, the Constitution commits those issues exclusively to the political branches.

“The Court’s insistence on adjudicating these claims has led it to develop doctrines that indulge in race-based reasoning inimical to the Constitution,” Thomas added.

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