GOP Gerrymandering Targeting Black Voters Defeated In South Carolina

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There’s been a settlement in a lawsuit that was brought against South Carolina authorities over the state’s new state legislative district maps, which plaintiffs including the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP and an individual voter said restricted opportunities for Black voters to make their voices heard. South Carolina officials have now agreed to redraw the state legislative district lines.

The settlement was announced just days before a trial on the claims regarding the state legislative district map was set to begin — the trial was set for May 16, and the voting rights organization known as Democracy Docket shared news of the settlement on May 6. (The ACLU shared news of the agreement the day before.) The original lawsuit also challenged the new Congressional districts in South Carolina, and there’s still a trial on those claims slated for later this year — but for now, “South Carolina has agreed to redraw its state House map in order to increase Black representation in certain districts,” according to Democracy Docket. The lawsuit originally claimed that districts on the new state legislative map were formulated in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“As a result of this settlement, the South Carolina Legislature will enact a new map by May 12 that will give Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice in Orangeburg, Richland, Kershaw, Dillon and Horry counties — a significant improvement over the original map,” Democracy Docket says. “Today marks a historical occasion: our political leadership has listened to our grievances and is working to create a more equitable political landscape,” South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP President Brenda Murphy added. “We have successfully petitioned our government for increased political access, and now Black communities in Richland/Kershaw, Orangeburg, and Dillon/Horry will have a greater chance of electing their preferred candidates… We will continue to work with our elected officials to ensure that all our communities have a voice in our democratic institutions.”

Redistricting-related court challenges are also continuing elsewhere. A Kansas judge, for instance, rejected a new Congressional map enacted by Republican state legislators over the objection of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly that was set to deliver all four of the state’s U.S. House seats to Republicans. Currently, one of the state’s Congressional representatives is a Democrat, and the new map dramatically shifted the contours of that Democrat’s district, putting some 45,000 Black and Latino voters from the area into a new district currently represented by a Republican. The case isn’t over, though — oral arguments before the Kansas state Supreme Court have been scheduled to begin on May 16. Elsewhere, there have already been legal challenges to Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s Congressional redistricting plans, which put areas from a district currently represented by Democrat Al Lawson, who is Black, into four new districts. There are also other problems.