ACLU, NAACP sue South Carolina over redistricting delay

ACLU, NAACP sue South Carolina over redistricting delay
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the state chapter of the NAACP on Tuesday filed a law suit against South Carolina over a months-long delay in the decennial redistricting process that the groups say is harming voters. 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, asks a three-judge panel to set a deadline by which legislators would be required to return to session to redraw South Carolina’s political boundaries. 

The legislature adjourned in June and planned to return in September or October to handle the mapmaking process.

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But momentum bled away after a special session called to deal with mask mandates in local school districts. A special session called by state Senate President Harvey Peeler (R) for Tuesday was canceled last month; Peeler said preparations would not have been completed in time.

Now, state legislative leaders have suggested that they may not reconvene to deal with redistricting until December or January — just weeks before a March deadline by which candidates running in the 2022 midterm elections would have to declare their intent.

The delay, the civil rights groups said, would make it nearly impossible for any lawsuits over the district lines to be adjudicated before they were to take effect. South Carolina district lines have wound up in court every decade since the 1970s.

“In every redistricting cycle for the last 50 years — since Congress enacted the Voting Rights Act — voters and others have been compelled to go to court to fix the legislature’s maps,” said Leah Aden, deputy director of litigation at the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “The state’s refusal to tell the public when it will reconvene to take up its obligation to redraw the lines and make it difficult, if not impossible, to resolve any court challenge before the consequential 2022 primaries is unacceptable.”

South Carolina’s redistricting process is wholly controlled by Republicans, who have the majority in the state legislature alongside Gov. Henry McMaster (R). The GOP’s majorities are not at risk, and Democrats are unlikely to gain seats in a state where they hold just one of seven U.S. House districts.

But South Carolina’s growth means district lines are likely to change substantially. The coastal seat held by Rep. Nancy MaceNancy MaceUS lawmakers arrive in Taiwan to meet with local officials US lawmakers visiting Taiwan for meetings with defense ministry: report Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (R) must lose tens of thousands of voters to shrink to a size in line with the rest of the state’s districts, while Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnThe Democrats' three-legged stool Lobbying world Sunday shows - Biden officials look to social spending package after infrastructure's passage MORE’s (D) neighboring district needs to add tens of thousands of voters.

The decennial Census, the basis for the redistricting process, counted almost 5.12 million Palmetto State residents last year, up by about half a million residents over the decade before. That put South Carolina 10th on the list of fastest-growing states in the country.