LWV of South Carolina and LWVUS filed amicus briefs at the United States Supreme Court supporting plaintiffs seeking affirmation of a three-judge panel ruling that found South Carolina’s first congressional district to be a racial gerrymander. The plaintiffs argued the state legislature violated the Fifteenth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause by dividing Black communities and voters among multiple districts to reduce their power to affect elections.
Previous Supreme Court precedent states that in redistricting, race may only be used in a narrowly tailored fashion to achieve a compelling state interest, such as obeying the Voting Rights Act. The Court’s decisions have also rejected districts, often irregularly shaped, that were drawn with race as a predominant factor, subsuming traditional redistricting criteria like compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivisions.
After the 2020 Census, states were required to redraw their congressional districts to reflect population changes. South Carolina’s state legislature draws its congressional districts. During the redistricting process, LWV of South Carolina proposed a congressional map that kept Charleston County and other communities of interest whole and created a competitive swing district centered around the Charleston area.
On January 26, 2022, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster signed into law new congressional maps. The maps placed the cities of Charleston and North Charleston together with South Carolina’s Midlands Region, nearly one hundred miles away, to create the sixth Congressional district. The remainder of Charleston County was combined with other parts of South Carolina’s coast to form the first congressional district.
On February 10, 2022, the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP and Taiwan Scott filed a complaint arguing the first, second, and fifth congressional districts were racially gerrymandered in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
The complaint asserted the legislature impermissibly employed race as a predominant factor when redrawing the new congressional districts by privileging it over traditional redistricting criteria like keeping political subdivisions together or ensuring compact districts. The plaintiffs argued this occurred when the legislature repeatedly divided counties and cities among multiple districts, and in several cases, moving Black voters to the sixth congressional district, and decreasing the percentages of Black voters in the surrounding first, second, and fifth congressional districts. According to the complaint, this tactic directly reduced the ability of Black voters to affect elections in the challenged districts.
After a trial before a three-judge panel, in which LWV of South Carolina testified, on January 27, 2023, the panel ruled that the legislature had racially gerrymandered South Carolina’s first congressional district, by moving over 30,000 Black residents, concentrated in North Charleston, from the district and placing them in the sixth Congressional district instead, which included most of the state’s midlands region, over 100 miles from North Charleston. The court ordered the legislature to submit a remedial map by March 31, 2023, and forbade any more elections using the district until the racial gerrymander was remedied.
The defendants appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which noted probable jurisdiction on May 15, 2023. The state legislature argued that the new map was a partisan gerrymander, not a racial gerrymander, and that the three-judge panel erred by failing to grant the legislature the presumption of good faith, among other alleged errors.
Census Bureau releases apportionment results
The United States Census Bureau releases the apportionment of congressional seats based upon the 2020 census. South Carolina is allocated seven congressional seats.
LWV of South Carolina proposes fair maps
LWV South Carolina proposes new congressional maps that would preserve communities of interest and create a highly competitive swing district in the Charleston area.
South Carolina enacts new congressional districts
Governor Henry McMaster signs S.865, which draws new Congressional districts after the 2020 census.
Plaintiffs file lawsuit against new congressional districts
After previously filing a complaint asserting South Carolina’s state House maps were racially gerrymandered, the plaintiffs file a second amended complaint arguing the legislature also racially gerrymandered the new first, second, and fifth congressional districts.
Three-judge panel strikes down South Carolina’s first congressional district
A three-judge panel rules the South Carolina legislature racially gerrymandered the first congressional district by drawing over 30,000 Black residents, concentrated in North Charleston, out of their previous district and placing them in the sixth congressional district over 100 miles from North Charleston.
South Carolina appeals to the United States Supreme Court
South Carolina appeals the three-judge panel’s decision to the United States Supreme Court. The state asserts the new map is a partisan gerrymander, not a racial gerrymander, and that the three-judge panel failed to apply precedent in several ways.
Supreme Court notes probable jurisdiction
In an unsigned order, the Court decides it has probable jurisdiction to hear South Carolina’s appeal of the panel’s ruling.
LWV of South Carolina files amicus brief
LWV of South Carolina and local partners file an amicus brief at the United States Supreme Court, detailing why Charleston County is a cohesive community of interest and how the new congressional maps diminish its federal representation. The brief also describes how the legislature ignored public input, which strongly favored keeping Charleston County whole.
LWVUS files amicus brief
LWVUS, together with several national voting rights groups, files a separate amicus brief urging the Court to affirm the panel’s ruling and reject the defendants’ proposal for a heightened standard to prove racial gerrymandering claims.