Politics

SC House advances congressional maps mostly favoring Republicans | Palmetto Politics

COLOMBIA – House Republicans are preparing to approve new congressional seat lines that provide a strong advantage for Republican incumbents in Congress.

In a partisan vote, the SC House of Representatives approved a congressional map that would enhance the incumbent’s advantage by increasing the number of Republican voters in red districts and Democratic voters in the dark blue district currently controlled by Representative Jim Clipburn, the lone Democrat in Washington.

A routine vote on January 13 will send the maps to the Senate, which is still in the process of finalizing its version of the map.

The House map — which favors Republicans, but is too similar to current borders — has been ridiculed by critics for being drawn along racial and partisan lines, a claim that Jay Jordan, chairman of the Ad Hoc Redistricting Committee, a Florence Republican, said is not supported by the “facts.” or data.

“If there are concerns, there is a process to address those concerns,” Jordan said, referring to public hearings held so far.

Although the lines closely resemble those endorsed by the Department of Justice a decade ago, groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters on the Supreme Committee, have opposed the maps and the process by which they were drawn. Critics have argued that they are disenfranchising voters of color by “mobilizing” black voters from competitive constituencies in places like North Charleston, within safe boundaries for Democrats.

Jordan argued that the characterization is inaccurate. He noted that under the current House proposal, the black population of Claiborne’s Sixth Congressional District is lower than it is now.

But others have argued that the map boundaries — redrawn in response to Beaufort County voters interested in moving to an inner county represented by Republican Representative Joe Wilson for the second county — diminish Democrats’ ability to win in hotly contested districts such as the First Lowcountry. Congressional District held by Republican Representative Nancy Mays.

Some have questioned why the concerns of voters in Beaufort County are given more credibility than voters in Charleston, who find themselves divided in representation between Mace and Claiborne.

“Downtown Charleston is closer to north of Charleston than downtown Columbia,” said Rep. Cambrill Garvan, D-Blythwood. “I find that worrisome.”

SC House's latest proposal to congressional lines deemed manipulation

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House Republicans have argued that the Charleston area—among the state’s fastest growing areas—has always been divided, dating back to a bipartisan bargain following the 1990 census to give Democrats a majority-black district.

But some are beginning to question the political motives for the split, particularly as elections in the Lowcountry are becoming increasingly competitive. On January 11, Representative John King, D.Rock Hill, wrote a letter to the House leadership objecting to the bill being introduced into the chamber, arguing that Republican Judiciary Committee Chairman Chris Murphy had illegally placed a fellow Republican on King’s chair . .

King described the move as a violation of House rules.

“The majority broke their judgment in order to bring the bill forward today,” King said. “And when you look at the map, you can see why. That’s because it was manipulated. It was drawn to elect six Republicans and only one Democrat.”

The ACLU has already sued legislative leaders over those maps, while prominent election law attorneys such as Mark Elias have told figures like Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison publicly that congressional lines in South Carolina are likely to be scrutinized.

South Carolina Republicans want to rule on redistricting

The House map looks a lot like a version currently awaiting approval in the Senate. But senators are due to consider an alternative version of their map on Jan. 13 that would make drastic changes favorable to Democrats amid mounting pressure from liberal groups.

Under that alternative map, Democrats would be the favorites to win in two congressional districts, with a single-digit disenfranchisement in the fifth congressional district controlled by Rock Hill Republican Ralph Norman, according to a partisan analysis released with the map.

The map also includes a proposal to keep the highly competitive electorate within the whole of Charleston County, a major sticking point for Democratic activists such as Governor Joe Cunningham’s candidate, who previously represented the district in Congress.

“Earlier this week, SC Republicans claimed it was impossible to map out to Congress keeping Charleston complete and Beaufort in #SC01,” Cunningham. Tweet on January 12th. “Well, not only is this possible, it is very easy!”

South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson criticized the proposal in a… Tweet Jan 11, where he said he favored the Senate plan with minimal changes to the line.

Associated Press Contribute to this report.

Call Nick Reynolds at 843-834-4267. Follow him on Twitter @IAmNickReynolds.

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