South Carolina's Redistricting News
The Sun News: "Redistricting expected to pass
easily." May 21, 2003
COLUMBIA - New Senate district maps and adjustments in some House districts are expected to sail through the House Judiciary Committee today after being held up Tuesday.
Horry County gets more clout in the Senate under the new plan, but the county will see no changes in the House.
A judiciary subcommittee agreed Monday to a series of minor House district changes that mainly repair split precincts and put neighborhoods back together.
The full committee was to meet Tuesday to approve the changes, but the House Black Caucus raised questions about whether members' districts were unfairly affected, so the meeting was put off until today.
House members said they would not change the Senate's plan, but were offered a chance to adjust their districts if they could reach agreement with their neighbors.
Horry County House representatives didn't ask for any changes.
"I have no desire to change my district," said Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach. Rep. Liston Barfield, R-Aynor, said Horry County members are satisfied with their districts.
If the committee passes the bill, the full House could pass it Thursday, which would send it to the governor for his signature next week.
The changes must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
Legislative redistricting -- last year's million-dollar court battle -- is back for another round.
The state NAACP sent a foreboding letter Friday to state Senate leader Glenn McConnell, warning that a late attempt to redraw Senate district lines could prompt a second bruising court fight and more bad feeling.
McConnell, R-Charleston, pulled a bill out of the normal committee process Thursday and moved it to the top of the agenda so the Senate could pass new district lines this session.
The Senate must complete its work on the bill, approve it and send it to the House by Thursday to meet deadlines for legislation to pass this session, which ends June 5. It would be a grueling and unusual pace.
In his letter to the Senate president pro tem, NAACP president James Gallman said he had "grave concerns" over fast-tracking legislation -- especially as it could change the composition of districts without "voter scrutiny and public input."
Gallman asked for an opportunity to examine any maps before a vote is taken.
McConnell could not be reached Friday night for comment, but he has said it is the Senate's obligation to draw its own districts, and he wants to meet that obligation.
The dispute reopens reapportionment, a contentious and complicated process, a year after many legislators thought it was settled.
Legislative and congressional districts are redrawn based on new census figures every 10 years so that all districts will have roughly the same number of people.
The Republican-led General Assembly drew lines in 2001, but they were vetoed by then-Gov. Jim Hodges, a Democrat. A three-judge federal panel drew lines last spring after a monthlong court battle that cost the state more than $1 million.
House members ran for election under the new district lines in November. Senators are up for re-election next year and would be running under the new lines for the first time.
McConnell introduced a "skeleton bill" six months ago, as a blank page to draw new lines on. However, Thursday's move was the first major public attempt to broach the subject.
State Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, said redistricting has long been a way for the people in power to solidify their power, by drawing districts they can win. In South Carolina, he said, that historically has meant white legislators used districts to keep blacks from obtaining political power.
"What's the rush?" he said. "I trust the courts more than I trust the General Assembly."McConnell's bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Aiken. Moore could not be reached Friday night.But state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, said there is consensus in the Senate to redraw the lines now. If they are not drawn in the next week, it will be almost impossible for senators to run in new districts next year."I see every reason to do it," he said. "It's our responsibility."The Senate plan would mirror the map senators passed two years ago, the plan that Hodges vetoed, Courson said. A goal is to put precincts back together that were split in the court map.Jackson, state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, and others already have raised objections about both risking another court battle and the Senate's priorities."The problem is, here we are," Jackson said. "Teachers are losing their jobs, state employees are losing their jobs, and legislators are out there spending money to protect themselves."
SIMPSONVILLE ó The Simpsonville City Council on Tuesday got its first look at a proposed redistricting plan aimed at realigning election ward boundary lines to accommodate the rapid growth over the last decade. And while no one on the panel expressed disapproval with new plan, several Council members did have questions for the state demographer who drew it.
Some wanted to know how folks living in new subdivisions that were developed and annexed into the city limits after Census 2000 would be counted.
Others wanted to know why some city wards appeared to take on strange shapes.
"Realize the census is one shot in time, and realize that you can't split census blocks," said Bobby Bowers, director of the state Budget and Control Board's Office of Research and Statistics.
Bowers travels across the country consulting with state and local governments on redistricting. On Tuesday, he told members of the City Council that Simpsonville is somewhat unique because the system here is based on at-large voting with residency requirements ó instead of single member districts. What that means is that city council members must live in the ward they represent.
However, all are elected in citywide races.
"All we are doing is adjusting the districts so that each of them has about the same number of people," Bowers said.
"That means each of them would have approximately the same number of people who are qualified to run."
There aren't enough minorities living in one specific area of the city to create a minority district, Bowers said.
According to Census 2000, one of the primary reasons for that is because young minorities are increasingly a group of white-collar professionals who aren't moving back into typical minority neighborhoods. Instead, they are choosing to buy houses in suburbia, alongside their colleagues.
Federal law doesn't require that the city wards be redrawn. But Bowers said he recommends it when growth documented by the census shows a large shift in population numbers.
That is the case in Simpsonville, where the population grew by 23 percent in 10 years to a total of 14,352 residents. The new population norm for each ward is now 2,392, Bowers said.
As it is presently drawn, Ward 4 is well above that norm at plus 74 percent, or 4,159, while Ward 5 is significantly below that norm at minus 26 percent or 1,772. Under the proposed redistricting plan presented Tuesday by Bowers, Ward 4 has a population of 2,380, while Ward 5 has a population of 2,395.
That falls directly in line with the accepted deviation of plus or minus 5 percent.
One of the most obvious changes visible on the new map is that Ward 2 stretches from the northern tip of the city limits to the east across Interstate 385. And Ward 4 in the southeastern part of the city, is a much smaller geographical mass having given up several neighborhoods to Wards 2 and 5.
It will take two readings by the City Council to approve the new voting plan, City Attorney David Holmes said Tuesday.
That should give the city plenty of time to receive approval on the changes from the U.S. Justice Department, Bowers said.
The next city election in Simpsonville isn't scheduled until November. It will involve Wards 1, 3 and 5, as well as the mayor.
SIMPSONVILLE ó A proposed redistricting plan aimed at realigning city election ward boundaries could win the approval of the Simpsonville City Council tonight.
Mayor Dennis Waldrop said he doesn't expect any controversy surrounding the redistricting plan, which was made necessary by the rapid growth in this Golden Strip city as documented in Census 2000.
"I don't have any problem with what I've seen," Waldrop said of the plan submitted to the City Council by Bobby Bowers, director of the State Budget and Control Board's Office of Research and Statistics.
Through the years, Bowers has been instrumental in helping the state Legislature and local governments redraw district lines.
"The whole goal is to get the wards set up so there is a close to equal number of voters in each one, and that appears to be exactly what he has done," the mayor said Monday.
"It also appears that no sitting member of the City Council has been drawn into another district. So I think it ought to be pretty palatable from both a logistical and a political standpoint."
One of the primary reasons that no disagreement is expected is because the Simpsonville City Council isn't elected from single member districts, officials have said. While council members do face a residency requirement ó meaning they must live in the ward they represent ó all are elected in citywide races.
In nearby Greer, a municipal election was delayed nearly a year after the U.S. Justice Department questioned that city's redistricting plan following the census.
After growth in the 1990s skewed the population of Greer's six voting districts, the City Council drew a new map based on Census 2000 figures, attempting to preserve two minority districts.
However, the Justice Department called that map retrogressive, saying it wouldn't allow minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice. Ultimately, Greer leaders came up with another map with one majority black district that won approval.
Federal law doesn't require that the wards be redrawn in Simpsonville, Bowers said. But he said he does recommend it when growth documented by the census shows a large shift in population numbers. "They should not have a problem," Bowers said. "We were able to keep each one of them in their own respective area. And since they are voted on at large, all we were doing was making the districts an equal size."
In Simpsonville, the new population norm for each ward is 2,392, Bowers said. According to census data, that means Ward 4 is well above the norm at plus 74 percent or 4,159, while Ward 5 is significantly below the norm at minus 26 percent or 1,772.
Unlike the care when dealing with single member districts, no attempts were made to create a district with a voting majority that is a minority, Bowers said.
That is because there aren't enough minority residents living in any one area of this Golden Strip suburb, Bowers said.
"The city's annexation and its growth has been all non-minority population," Bowers said. "So what Simpsonville actually has is distributional representation."
According to Census 2000, one of the primary reasons for that is because young minorities are increasingly a group of white-collar professionals who aren't moving back into typical minority neighborhoods.
Instead, they are choosing to buy houses in suburbia, alongside their colleagues.
The next city election in Simpsonville will be in November and involve wards 1, 3 and 5, as well as mayor.
Fountain Inn should change the way its people are represented on City Council, several residents suggested during a Jan. 28 public hearing on redrawing the boundaries of the city's six political wards.
They suggested the political wards be changed to single-member districts, rather than at-large districts, a plan councilwoman Wanza Bates favored.
Fountain Inn now has at-large council representation, meaning all ward representatives are elected by all city residents. Single-member districts would mean that each council candidate would be elected by only the people in his or her respective ward.
Bates said single-member districts would give fairer representation to all city residents.
"For example, you may have one area of town where the income level is relatively high ñ and their interests might be in a park or in not wantingg to raise taxes," Bates said. "Then you may have another area of town that has a lower income level and (people there) might be interested in revitalization or in the rehabilitation of homes."
Councilmen Gary Long and Berry Woods Jr. favored keeping the at-large arrangement, saying city residents from any ward should feel free to contact any council member with concerns.
"I believe it (single-member district) would tend to make council members concerned only about their ward," Cameron said.
The issue is relevant now because City Council must change the boundaries of its wards to address demographic shifts that occurred from 1999-2000, which threw the populations in the wards out of balance.
Based on the 2000 census, the ideal population size in each ward should be 1,003, with no more than a 3 percent variation.
But none of the wards meet this requirement. The breakdown now is as follows: Ward 1, Gary Long ó 1,606; Ward 2, Charlie Thackston ñ 1,51,551; Ward 3, Wanza Bates ñ 792; Ward 4, Leonard Henderson ñ 1ì 153; Ward 5, Berry Woods Jr. ñ 583; Ward 6, Louie Chambers ñ Äì 1,332.
There also is a sense of urgency to redrawing the boundaries due to legal and electoral considerations.
"There is always the possibility that someone could file suit against the city because of (unbalanced) representation," Mayor Wayne Davis said. "So it should be completed at the earliest possible date."
The city also could be caught in the unwanted position of having to delay its elections, which are scheduled in November.
"We may find ourselves in the position of Greer last year and Clinton where elections had to be delayed pending approval by the Justice Department," Davis said.
The council is considering two plans which were suggested by the state demographer's office. Maps of the plans are on display at City Hall.
Any plan approved for consideration must pass three council readings and then be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
City Administrator Carey Elliott said that in addition to having the right numbers, each ward also will have to have the right racial percentages.
"Race is a factor in this realignment," Elliott said. "But I don't know how the Justice Department determines what (racial) percentage should be applied in each ward."
Councilman Louie Chambers reiterated that he, like Mayor Davis, favored the plan that keeps all council members in their current wards while bringing each of the populations closer to balance.
"This coming November will be election time for four of us sitting up here," he said. "So I think it's better for us to go with (this plan)."
The second plan would redraw the ward boundaries so that three candidates ñ Chambers, Henderson and Woods ñ would end up in Ward 4, wh which would force a special election.
But Bates added that aside from single-member vs. at-large district issue, she also is concerned about how future growth will affect the balance in each ward.
"The one thing that neither of these plans addresses is the potential growth areas that we have in the city," she said. "Right now, we have about four or five development projects that are on the board, and I understand that a couple of them have about 200-and-some houses in them."
No opinion on a plan was offered by the other council members.
"I think we need to do a little more studying on it," Thackston said.
Woods said that he too intends to consider all points made at the meeting before making a decision.
"I just hope we can work it to where it can be fair for everyone," Woods said. ¬ Site Map
Political districts for roughly 40 percent of Greenville County's nearly 200,000 voters have changed, but many of those voters won't discover they're represented by different politicians until they enter their polling place on Nov. 5.
State law doesn't require local election offices to notify residents when they are assigned to different districts. They must be notified only when precincts change.
District changes are a result of last year's redistricting process, where political district lines were shifted to reflect population changes from the 2000 U.S. Census. It is required by state and federal law partly to ensure equal representation at all government levels.
State Senate and House, County Council and the Greenville County School districts were changed. New state Senate districts are not affected in the upcoming election because there are no Senate races, said Conway Belangia, director of Greenville County Voter Registration and Elections.
Currently the only way voters can find out if they have been assigned to a different district is to check the voter registration and elections page on the county's Web site or to call the office.
The Web page links to the state Election Commission site where voters can type in their name and birth date to see which districts cover their area.
Residents are often shifted during redistricting because each district must fall within plus or minus 5 percent of a certain population goal. District lines are redrawn to meet that goal.
"Sometimes it's streets, sometimes it's neighborhoods, sometimes it's larger subdivisions. The lines have changed," Belangia said.
Foxcroft residents Brock and Gloria Jackson believe there should be some kind of notification by mail. They discovered one of their districts was different when they went to vote in a minor local election.
"There should have been stronger information put out there for us," Gloria Jackson said.
After redistricting, their Eastside subdivision was switched from District 21 to District 22 on the school board. Belangia couldn't say whether other political districts for the neighborhood are different.
Sen. Ralph Anderson, D-Greenville, said Friday he would consider drafting a bill when the Legislature convenes in January to require the election commission to notify the people when redistricting puts them in another district.
"I was under the impression that they were notified," said Anderson, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees election laws.
Politicans helped notify voters of changes, Belangia said, through the contested races in the June primary. Others take it upon themselves to tell residents they're being represented by someone different.
County Councilwoman Phyllis Henderson sent out flyers after the council's 12 districts were redrawn to let residents in parts of Mauldin know she represented them instead of Council Chairman Dozier Brooks.
"I hate to have to pass someone off to someone else if they call me," Henderson said, adding that she wanted to make sure residents would call her with requests and concerns.
The federal judges have spoken, and the legislators have rolled up their maps and gone home.
In amazingly short order, the redrawing of district maps appears to be coming to an early close this year. That contrasts with the 1990s, when the process of drawing new maps almost took the entire decade.
Wednesday's court ruling ended a yearlong fight over how to draw state House of Representatives, Senate and congressional lines. And it prompted immediate crowing over who will benefit.
Sure, someone could appeal the ruling and extend the battle.
But only if they are a party to one of the original lawsuits that prompted the federal trial. And even then, they could only appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Getting the court to consider such an appeal is tough: The justices must determine that the complaint raises a novel and critical issue.
The General Assembly could try to adjust the court's lines, but it's unlikely.
The Republican-led House and Senate passed a plan last summer that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges. The General Assembly could not override the veto, prompting this winter's monthlong reapportionment trial.
House Republicans and Democrats publicly claimed victory after the maps were released last week.
Legislative and congressional districts are redrawn every 10 years to account for population shifts. The process is important because it determines the state House, Senate and congressional districts where residents will vote.
Depending on how the lines are drawn, it also can determine which party controls the General Assembly.
This cycle of redistricting was simpler than the 1990s because the sides were more clearly drawn this time.
In the 1990s, the involvement of interest groups affected the dynamic, political scientist Neal Thigpen said.
Then, the S.C. Conference of Branches of the NAACP and the Legislative Black Caucus advocated more majority-black districts.
Then-Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell agreed, in part because more majority-black districts would have meant more majority-white districts, and therefore, Republican districts. Democratic leaders of the House and Senate found themselves at odds with black advocates.
This time, members of the Legislative Black Caucus worked with Democratic leaders.
That meant the battle was mainly Republican versus Democrat.
"It was a much more partisan thing without any interested support groups playing a major role," said Thigpen, of Francis Marion University.
Redistricting is also simpler today because the law is more stable.
In the 1990s, it was shifting dramatically.
States, particularly Southern ones such as South Carolina, were urged early in the decade to maximize the number of majority-black districts, to ensure that black voters could elect candidates they chose.
Then in the mid-1990s, a series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions changed the criteria, so that race could be a factor in drawing lines but not the only factor.
No similar changes are on the horizon, Thigpen said.
"What's said at the beginning of the decade will probably stand at the end," Thigpen said.
For the last year, redistricting has exacted a tough toll on the General Assembly, as legislators fought for their own survival and their colleagues' and constituents' interests.
The battle has been costly. As of March 20, the state had paid legal fees of $359,045 for the Senate, $150,012 for the House, and $468,535 for the governor.
But the bickering appears to be waning.
Both sides have declared victory. Democrats celebrated with champagne Wednesday night; Republicans with cigars.
The repercussions, even the short-term ones, will not be known until the Nov. 5 election.
In the House, Democrats are predicting they'll pick up seats.
But so are Republicans, who have a 71-53 majority.
"We're going to improve our numbers, no question," House Majority Leader Rick Quinn said. "I am a happy man."
Candidates for the state House and U.S. Congress will run under the new maps in the
June 11 primary and the Nov. 5 general election.
Thigpen said redistricting would not change the political balance in the congressional delegation and state Senate, and perhaps give only a small bump to Democrats in the state House.
"It looks to me that the whole judicial tussle came out with perhaps a minor, minor, minor positive for the Democrats overall," Thigpen said. "But it doesn't look to me that there's any great change there either."
Political scientist Brad Gomez said that in his view, Republicans lostbecause they didn't win.
"The true advantage for being in the majority in a state house ... across the country is to get the political gain for redistricting," said USC's Gomez. "That didn't happen."
The federal judges hearing the caseFourth Circuit Judge William Traxler, Chief District Judge Joe Anderson and Senior District Judge Matthew Perry -- made no secret of their frustration at the particularly partisan nature of this redistricting.
The judges criticized Hodges and the House and Senate for making arguments that were essentially political.
"Such is the political process," they wrote.
Implicit in the order was the judges' desire to make the State House less partisan.
They split many decisions, collapsing one Democratic district and one Republican one.
They did not allow racial splits of some communities, as requested by Republicans.
They shot down the Democrats' argument for "influence districts," with 25 to 50 percent black voters.
Mostly, they urged the Legislature to do its own job and draw its own lines. "They are, of course, in the best position to do so," they wrote.
Rep. Joe Neal, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the result of the court decision will be a more moderate State House.
"It worked out well for the Democratic Party but even for the Republicans," said Neal, D-Richland. "Though it might not have the appearance, it prevented them from doing something in the long term that would have been harmful even to them, the polarization of the political process."
Staff writer Chris Roberts contributed to this report.
Federal judges issued new maps for S.C. House districts Wednesday that could increase the influence of Democrats.
The plan creates 29 majority-black districts, four more than the Republican-controlled House has now.
And the judges agreed with Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges in eight districts across the state where Hodges had argued with Republicans. Hodges claimed the GOP split communities along racial lines to make those districts more predominantly white and, therefore, more Republican.
The three-judge federal panel that heard the redistricting case also issued new maps for Congress and the state Senate.
The order criticized legislators and the governor for forcing the federal courts to draw new district lines. Federal courts also had to draw lines in the 1980s and 1990s.
"This court has once again been placed into the center of partisan politics in South Carolina," they wrote. The judges are Fourth Circuit Judge William Traxler, Chief U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson, and Senior U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry.
Republicans and Democrats conceded the losers were the taxpayers, who have paid $880,000 in attorneys' fees so far in the redistricting case.
As of last month, Hodges' attorneys had been paid $469,000. The House's attorneys had been paid $150,000, and the Senate's, $261,000.
But the parties split over which side came out ahead.
"We're thrilled that the plan creates a more level playing field," House Minority Leader Doug Jennings said. "We believe it will produce a House that looks more like South Carolina."
House Speaker David Wilkins said the plan would pose no threat to the Republicans' 71-53 House majority.
"This plan is not going to change the political landscape of the House drastically, in spite of what others may have said," Wilkins, R-Greenville, said.
Overall, the plan:
ï Builds two new districts along the rapidly growing coast -- one in western Beaufort County and one in south-central Horry County. Wilkins predicted those districts would elect Republicans.
ï Takes away one district from Charleston, where the population dropped with the closure of the Charleston Naval Base in the early 1990s, and one from Sumter, where population growth did not keep pace with the rest of the state.
ï Moves two incumbent Charleston Democrats -- Reps. Seth Whipper and Mickey Whatley -- into the same district. It also moves two incumbent Sumter Republicans -- Reps. Murrell Smith and Jeff Young -- into the same district.
ï Makes few changes to House seats in the Midlands. District 80 in Lower Richland, represented by Democrat Jimmy Bales, had been eliminated in a plan passed by the House, but the court left the district essentially unchanged.
ï Splits small, rural Colleton County into three House districts rather than five. The county had filed one of the federal lawsuits that resulted in Wednesday's decision. "This is a home run for Colleton," attorney John Moylan said.
The judges released their 119-page ruling and three thick rolls of maps during a 10-minute hearing in federal court Wednesday afternoon.
Their ruling ended a yearlong redistricting process that began with the new U.S. Census data released last spring.
During a special redistricting session last summer, the General Assembly passed plans that would have cemented the Republicans' strength in the House and Senate.
Hodges vetoed the plans, saying they created too many majority-white districts.
The House and Senate could not override the veto, sending the redistricting duties to court for a monthlong trial this winter.
The judges did not give any party in the lawsuit everything it wanted.
They chastised Hodges for his argument on "influence districts." Hodges said most of the 124 House districts should be between 25 and 50 percent black since the state, as a whole, is 30 percent black.
The judges said that argument was "an inherently politically based policy" to create districts that tended to vote Democratic.
But the judges also scaled back Republican efforts to protect key swing districts.
They did not allow the predominantly black Chalk Hill precinct in Lexington County to be attached to a district based in Richland County. It remains in District 88, represented by Republican Jake Knotts.
They did not allow the city of Laurens or the city of Beaufort to be split between two districts, as the Republicans proposed.
Both sides ultimately declared victory.
House Democrats celebrated Wednesday night with their seven-member team of attorneys, toasting the new maps with a case of champagne.
"We believe this plan could result in a shift of power, with the balance of power changing," Jennings said.
But Wilkins said he was confident Republicans would maintain, or build on, their majority.
"This is very much going to keep the status quo," Wilkins said.
In addition, the courts released plans for the state Senate. Senators are not up for election in 2004, making the Senate maps less crucial this year than in the House -- whose primary season begins today.
The Senate, at the request of former state Sen. Joe Wilson, had flip-flopped the bulk of
Wilson's former District 23 and Sen. Nikki Setzler's District 26 in Lexington County. The courts disagreed with that proposal, leaving Setzler, a Democrat, with the rural district he has had for 25 years.
An outside party could appeal the judges' ruling, though it is not likely any appeal would block this year's House elections.
Any appeal would be to the 4th Circuit, then to the U.S. Supreme Court, Wilkins said.
Bauerlein covers state government and the Legislature. You can reach her
at (803) 771-8485 or by e-mail at [email protected]