Federal Court Denies GOP Attempt To Ram Through Vote Suppression Law


A three-judge panel on a federal court has allowed a court challenge against new legislative district lines in South Carolina to proceed, finding — contrary to the claims from Republican officials targeted by the lawsuit — that plaintiffs had the standing to bring the case and had adequately laid out their fundamental arguments to allow for further proceedings. Those Republican officials had asked for the case to be dismissed. As summarized by the voting rights organization known as Democracy Docket, the case “alleges that South Carolina’s new [state] House and congressional maps are racially gerrymandered and dilute the voting strength of Black voters in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments.” More specifically, those behind this case argue that race was the “predominant factor” behind the formulation of certain districts, Democracy Docket explains.

The Republican officials facing this case, which features the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and an individual voter as plaintiffs, argued that those behind it “failed to plausibly plead racial gerrymandering and that this is, in reality, a non-justiciable partisan gerrymandering action disguised as a racial gerrymandering action,” as recapped by the court. In other words, Republican officials claimed that concerns about the impact on Democratic chances in elections were the real issue here, rather than worries about the ability of specific marginalized communities to make their voices heard in elections, regardless of their political affiliations. The court found that plaintiffs’ “detailed allegations, though far from conclusive, are sufficient to ‘plausibly’ allege that race predominated the redistricting process in the challenged districts.” The plaintiffs effectively established their case, the court concluded, and now further proceedings are forthcoming.

Democracy Docket states that the trial in this case “has been postponed to a later date so that the parties can engage in settlement negotiations.” Leah Aden, who works as deputy director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) said late last year in relation to court proceedings over South Carolina’s state legislative district lines that, with those challenged lines in place, “Black voters will have fewer opportunities to elect candidates of choice or influence elections and thus have representatives who will be responsive to their needs for housing, economic, educational, and public safety opportunities.”

South Carolina isn’t in any respect the only venue for challenges to political manipulations of the post-census redistricting process by Republicans. New litigation was recently unveiled in Kansas, where Republicans in the state legislature put a startlingly gerrymandered Congressional map in place over the veto of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly. (State legislators had the votes to override the veto.) That map splits off part of Wyandotte County — the state’s most racially and ethnically diverse county — for the first time in four decades, putting the area in two separate U.S. House districts for the next electoral cycle. The district that Wyandotte currently sits entirely within  — but which will be sharply re-configured for upcoming elections if this map is allowed to stand — is represented by Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democratic member of Kansas’s current Congressional delegation.