The State: "Remapping plan
OK'd by House." August 16, 2001
As Democrats and Republicans angrily accused each other of racial gerrymandering, the S.C. House of Representatives approved plans Wednesday to redraw its own districts. The House passed its plan by a vote of 70-44, with 10 members not voting. Three Democrats voted with the GOP majority.
As a result of the changes, Republicans hope to add six to eight new members to their majority.
Neal, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the House plan would take the state back in time. Blacks would be able to elect representatives from majority-black districts, Neal said, but representatives from "super-white" districts would not have to listen to them.
"You are taking South Carolina in a direction that will be disastrous for her ... in which the majority will care less and less and less about the minority," Neal said.
House Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison said his committee's plan was drawn with a close eye to legal precedent and to fairness. Harrison said he took offense at the accusation that he set a quota of 75 percent white.
Harrison argued that a Democratic counterproposal was worse for blacks.
Democrats drew 50 districts where the black voting-age population was lower than the Republican plan, making it more difficult for blacks to elect candidates or play a deciding role in elections.
"If there was ever racial apartheid, it's the Democratic plan that's doing that," Harrison said.
The General Assembly is obligated to redraw its lines every 10 years with new census numbers.
The procedure is contentious, especially in Southern states such as South Carolina, which must get Justice Department approval. In South Carolina, the courts have traditionally redrawn lines.
Wednesday's debate was significant because it laid out the grounds for a likely gubernatorial veto and a protracted court battle.
Attorney Richard Gergel, representing Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, watched the debate. "They want black folks involved in picking black leaders, but not in picking white leaders," Gergel said.
Neal said he and the leaders of the Black Caucus had been "ominously silent" before his speech Wednesday.
Black leaders formed a coalition with white Republicans in the 1990s to maximize the number of majority-black and majority-white districts. But the Black Caucus cannot back this Republican plan, Neal said, because it minimizes black influence in almost all districts without a black majority.
"This plan goes far beyond what those of us in the Legislative Black Caucus have ever envisioned," Neal said. "It goes to the point that is threatening to the health and welfare of South Carolina."
Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, said the House plan followed historical district lines, county and precinct lines, and population growth.
"They can claim political partisanship all day long," Wilkins said. "This plan is the result of population shift."
August 16, 2001
The S.C. House of Representatives adopted a congressional reapportionment plan Wednesday that is incumbent friendly.
It essentially leaves South Carolina's six districts intact, making the Palmetto State delegation likely to stay two Democrats and four Republicans.
The plan splits Georgetown County between the 1st and 6th congressional districts. It also takes Colleton County out of the 2nd District and puts it in the 6th.
Republican U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence represents the 2nd, and Democrat Jim Clyburn holds the majority-black 6th District seat.
Darlington and Lee counties are placed in the 5th District, represented by Democrat John Spratt.
Overall, the plan reduces the number of split counties from 13 to 8.
The House adopted the proposal on an 81-25 vote.
All six S.C. congressmen endorsed the plan.
The House defeated all efforts to amend the committee plan.
The Senate is considering a slightly different congressional reapportionment plan. The differences between the two plans will have to be ironed out in a Senate-House conference.
House Democrats said Tuesday that they have been brow-beaten by Republicans who want help overturning a likely gubernatorial veto on reapportionment.
"I've been threatened, cajoled, offered things," said Rep. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw. "Some of them I choose not to go into for the dignity of (the House)."
Republicans said they are offering to help Democrats by drawing districts where they might be re-elected.
Majority Leader Rick Quinn said Democratic leaders and Gov. Jim Hodges are applying the most pressure to vote against a Republican-backed plan, Quinn said.
"I think ultimately the plan is so fair that we're going to have the votes to override," Quinn said. "If not, it's because of the strong-arm tactics of the governor" and Minority Leader Doug Jennings, Quinn said.
S.C. House members spent the second day of a special session on reapportionment arguing over which party's plan was more inclusive. The House is scheduled to vote on a plan today. The vote is expected to fall along party lines in support of the Republican- backed plan.
State Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian said any Democrat that votes for the final Republican redistricting plan "is too stupid to be re-elected."
Harpootlian said any Democrats who support the GOP plan will have primary opposition because "they shouldn't be in the House or the Senate."
"They're selling their vote for short-term satisfaction. Their districts will be modified by a court," Harpootlian said. "And I can assure you, the plan will end up in court."
Legislators conceded that much of Tuesday's eight hours of debate was perfunctory, an effort to get points of view on the record for a court battle.
Reapportionment is the redrawing of legislative district lines every 10 years to align with new census data. The lines often make districts more Democratic or more Republican, and often are decided in court after lawsuits over fairness.
The House floor often felt like a courtroom Tuesday, with lawyer-legislators hedging their assertions with phrases such as, "to the best of my knowledge" or "it is my understanding that."
Rep. Jim Harrison, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, showed his rarely seen temper after Democrats asserted that his committee had drawn "super-white" districts.
Harrison, R-Richland, said he made every effort to include Democrats in crafting his committee's proposal.
Harrison called on Democrats one by one, reminding them of the hours he spent huddled over maps with them. "To put something in the record that said I systematically excluded members of the minority party from having any meaningful input in this process offends me greatly," Harrison said.
In turn, Democrats said they were excluded from the process.
Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry, said his service on the Judiciary Committee and its line-drawing Election Laws Subcommittee was a waste of time.
McLeod compared working with Harrison and subcommittee chairman Ron Fleming, R-Union, with a tour of a Newberry plant where a man kills turkeys all day, every day.
"The only difference between the turkey plant in Newberry and the election laws subcommittee is there's one 'kill man' at the turkey plant and there are two 'kill men' at the election laws subcommittee," McLeod said.
Other Democrats and Republicans asked for help amending the plan so they could keep key blocks of voters.
Most requests failed because Harrison said they would split precincts and make the plan less desirable in the eyes of the court.
Sheheen made an impassioned speech asking for changes to his Kershaw district that he said would allow him a chance at re-election rather than making his district much more Republican.
Sheheen, a freshman legislator and the nephew of former House Speaker Bob Sheheen, said he was saddened by the partisanship he'd seen.
"When I came over here, I thought we'd get in here and debate things and vote our conscience," Sheheen said. "I guess I was naive."
Sheheen's request failed, and he said it was because some of his Republican friends felt they couldn't back him. "I know some of you want to help me and I know some of you are afraid to help me."
Staff writer Lee Bandy contributed to this report.
House Democrats raged against a Republican redistricting plan Monday, saying it raises the number of "super-white" districts by almost 10 percent.
Democrats charged Republicans with "electoral apartheid" in creating 78 House districts they can't lose, by making them more than 75 percent white.
"We believe the Republican plan unfairly divides South Carolinians based on the color of our skin," said Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Marlboro.
House Republicans said they are drawing new maps that reflect the state's population growth, which is concentrated in suburban areas that tend to vote Republican.
Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland, said his map-drawing committee followed strict court guidelines that prohibit legislatures from diluting black voting strength.
Republicans drew maps based on county and precinct lines and other boundaries that unite people.
"Race was not the predominant factor," Harrison said. "We truly went in and tried to keep communities of interest together."
The General Assembly spent the first day of its special session on reapportionment laying the groundwork for the political battle to come.
When legislators weren't chatting about how they spent their six weeks' vacation, they were speculating on the next few weeks, particularly on which Democrats might vote with Republicans to back the official House plan should Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges veto it.
Harrison spent three hours on the House floor explaining the committee plan.
House Democrats unveiled their response plan, which they said would split fewer counties and precinct lines. By not creating as many super-white districts, Democrats said their plan would allow blacks in majority-white districts to have some influence.
The House begins debate at 9:30 today. One of the first amendments will be to undo one controversial earlier move, taking Jennings and Rep. Mary Beth Freeman, D-Cheraw, out of the same district, Harrison said.
In the Senate, a judiciary subcommittee took six hours of public testimony on the plan for the S.C. Senate proposed by staff attorneys and backed by President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.
The Senate subcommittee is expected to vote on that plan today and send it to the full Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Floor debate could begin Thursday.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, complained loudly about McConnell's plan to separate Eastover and Gadsden from Hopkins and put them in a district represented by Senate Democratic Leader John Land.
"It's like taking Five Points out of Shandon," Jackson said.
Jackson said he feels strongly about the change because "all my slave ancestors are buried in Gadsden. I feel so passionate that any colleague who votes against me, I will consider it personal."
Jackson noted that African-Americans make up a third of the state population, but none of the Senate staff charged with drawing lines. "You wonder when you look at the staff and see not one black," he said.
"That's an unfair characterization of the staff," state Sen. John Hawkins, R-Spartanburg, replied to Jackson.
The state's political future has been quietly taking shape in the legislative backrooms of the State House the last six months.
And it has not been pretty.
Armed with the latest technology and elbowing for a partisan advantage, Republicans and their number-crunching deputies have toiled behind the scenes to redraw the state legislative map to their advantage. Democrats have been left out of the process totally.
The stakes are huge. The outcome will chart the course of election campaigns in the state for a decade or more, starting in 2002. Careers will be made, ambitions thwarted. Control of the Legislature (--) the GOP holds a 71-53 advantage in the House and a 24-22 majority in the Senate could be affected by a nip here and a tuck there.
"For the Republicans to say the plan does no harm to the Democrats is pure poppycock," says House Democratic Leader Doug Jennings of Bennettsville.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison, R-Richland, says both sides gave and took a little.
Republican leaders say they hope to pick up seven to eight seats under the redistricting plan adopted by the House Judiciary Committee.
The plan pits six Democrats against each other and strengthens GOP districts.
Republicans have targeted freshman Democratic Rep. Vincent Sheheen, who represents Kershaw County.
He fought for a couple of minor changes to his district in committee, offering a persuasive argument. He noted Republican Rep. Jay Lucas of Hartsville, who represents a neighboring district, agreed to the changes. He pleaded with his GOP colleagues to ignore leadership pressures and "do what's right."
The amendment failed, 12-11, thanks to Lucas, who abandoned his friend to tow the GOP line. Two Republicans supported Sheheen - Greg Delleney of Chester and G. Murrell Smith of Sumter.
Lucas said he agreed to Sheheen's changes. But when he saw the proposed map, the changes were more than he bargained for.
Republicans see Sheheen as a rising star. He's bright, capable, hardworking and a moderate Democrat in a district the GOP thinks it ought to win. Republicans fear if Sheheen gets a toehold in the Legislature, he'll be around for a while.
"They think they can make my district a Republican district. I don't think they can," Sheheen said.
Harrison won't say how many seats the GOP expects to gain under the plan, but he suggests a "good" candidate could defeat Sheheen.
Sheheen, who has made a point to reach out to others in a bipartisan fashion, was deeply disappointed with Lucas's vote. Lucas was under immense pressure from the Republican leadership, he says.
"Every informed person knows what's happening," Jennings says.
Redistricting gives lawmakers a power that can summon the best and worst of human nature: Loyalty, vengeance, generosity and opportunism.
Republicans have exploited the process to their greatest advantage, drawing as many friendly districts as reasonably possible. The imperative is: Grab all the seats you can.
Republicans "have gotten greedy, drunk with power. They puff their chest out and say, 'We're in charge,' " Jennings says.
Democrats hold the trump card, however. They control the governor's office, where Jim Hodges can veto the most egregious partisan mischief.
If there's one certainty surrounding the process, it is that the remap plan will lead to some sort of court fight.
Anybody can file a lawsuit, and redistricting will prove that.
All six S.C. congressional members (--) two Democrats and four Republicans (--) were awarded safe districts under a reapportionment plan drafted by the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee staff and made public Tuesday.
All of the congressmen, with the exception of 2nd District GOP Rep. Floyd Spence of Lexington, embraced the proposal.
It's essentially the same plan submitted by state Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, with minor adjustments.
"This plan comes closer to meeting the constitutional test than any I've seen," said U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Santee Democrat, who represents the majority-black 6th District.
Last week, the House Judiciary Committee bowed to pressure from Spence and put Colleton County back in the 6th and restored Orangeburg and Calhoun counties to the 2nd.
But the Senate staff undid it, much to the chagrin of Spence.
State Sen. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican who led the fight for Spence, said he will attempt to restore Orangeburg and Calhoun to the 2nd using the argument that the two counties have more in common with the Midlands than the Pee Dee.
"The fight is going to be a long-term struggle," said Wilson, a member of the Senate reapportionment subcommittee.
The Senate staff plan makes the congressional districts more compact, reducing the number of counties in the 6th from 16 to 12, and from 11 to 9 in the 2nd. The 1st, 3rd, 4th and 5th would retain the same number of counties. The number of split counties would be reduced from 13 to 7.
The black voting age population in the 6th would drop from 61 percent to 53 percent. But Clyburn said he could live with that.
Federal courts have ruled that districts must become more compact, departing from the sprawling boundaries created to increase the chance of electing minority candidates. At the same time, the U.S. Justice Department requires there be no decrease in the number of elected minorities.
There is a long tradition in South Carolina of state lawmakers deferring to redistricting agreements worked out among congressional incumbents.
Early on, Ford circulated his plan among the six congressional members, and all said they had no serious problem with it, although Spence raised some concerns.
The redistricting committees in both of the state's legislative chambers have been working on separate tracks. Differences would have to be settled in a Senate-House conference.
If lawmakers fail to agree on new districts (--) or if the governor objects to their plan and the Legislature can't muster enough votes to override a veto (--) the job would fall to the courts. That last happened in South Carolina in 1991 when the courts drew up the current map.
Lee Bandy covers politics. You can reach him at (803) 771-8648 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Richland County would add John Land as a fifth senator representing its residents under a redistricting plan unveiled Monday.
Land, the leader of Senate Democrats from Manning, would join the Richland delegation under the plan proposed by the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee and backed by Sen. Glenn McConnell, the president pro tem.
Land's five-county district would stretch from his home in Clarendon County through parts of Calhoun, Sumter and Lee counties and to Eastover in Richland County.
This shift was among several changes proposed for the Midlands, including:
(box) Moving Nikki Setzler's District 26 somewhat out of Lexington County and farther into Saluda and Aiken counties.
(box) Having John Courson's District 20 pick up some of Lexington County, including the town of Irmo.
(box) Moving Andre Bauer's District 18 out of Union County and more solidly into Lexington, Newberry and Saluda counties.
Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, said he was "furious" about losing lower Richland areas a few miles from his home to Land.
The proposed plan wrongly compresses black voters into the same districts, Jackson said, and ultimately dilutes their voting strength. Jackson's district would be 53 percent black in its voting-age population. Land's would be 57 percent black.
"I am adamantly opposed to the map that came out," Jackson said.
Land, a senator since 1977, said he would happily represent Richland but wanted to check with other senators about their views on the plan.
Courson, a Republican, said district lines had to be moved because the majority-black districts represented by Jackson and Kay Patterson were not growing as quickly as other parts of the region.
Courson lost some of his district also, because his district grew too much.
"You have to look at this from a macro-perspective," Courson said.
McConnell, R-Charleston, released his staff's plan one week before the General Assembly returns to Columbia for a special session on reapportionment, the mandatory redrawing of lines every 10 years to ensure that districts have roughly the same number of people.
The plan was released on the Senate's Web site at 10 a.m. Monday. McConnell released the maps a few hours before his colleague and close friend, Sen. Ernie Passailaigue, D-Charleston, was hired as lottery director.
Passailaigue's current District 43 included the old Navy base and had lost thousands in population. McConnell's plan essentially drew Passailaigue's district out of existence, moving it northeast.
The new District 43, as proposed, would run from Mount Pleasant up to southern Horry County. It encompasses much of the area now represented by Sen. Arthur Ravenel, R-Charleston.
Ravenel said he is happy to shift his District 34 down to historic Charleston, Folly Beach and Kiawah Island (--) areas he has represented in the past either as a state senator or congressman.
Ravenel said next week's special session could be brutal, as incumbents battle to protect themselves and create districts where their parties could win.
But, Ravenel said, the population grew dramatically in the 1990s and most of the growth took place in the cities' suburbs and on the coast.
"The basic problem the white Democrats are having is we now have more than 4 million people, and most of the new people are white, and most are Republicans.
"The problem the Democrats are having is there are not enough blacks to go around," Ravenel said.
Jackson, of Richland, said the general problem is that the people responsible for drawing districts that best represent constituents are also politicians concerned about their own futures.
"When you deal with reapportionment, it's something that's deeper than partisanship," Jackson said. "It's about selfishness."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing on the plan at 1:30 p.m. Monday in the Gressette Building at the State House complex.
Staff Writer Chris Roberts contributed to this report.
When Republicans and black lawmakers forged the unholy alliance over redistricting in 1994, it guaranteed more blacks would get elected. It also set the South Carolina Legislature on a course for GOP domination.
Drawing blacks into more black districts had the opposite effect of creating whiter, more Republican districts.
State Democrats and political analysts say the odd coalition won't happen again.
"We are all on the same page this time," a Democratic aide to House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Bennettsville, said.
"I would be very surprised to see that happen again," political scientist Bill Moore of the College of Charleston said.
He also believes Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges will veto the GOP-controlled House redistricting plan to be considered by the General Assembly Aug. 13. The federal courts will draw the lines for South Carolina, he said.
The House plan boosts minority voting districts from 25 to 27, but Black Caucus Chairman Joe Neal, D-Hopkins, said blacks didn't ask for the increase.
"We have no interest in creating additional black districts," Neal said. "We don't think at this point politically we need to do that. We don't think there's enough growth to justify it."
House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, said the plan added black districts to keep communities of interest together and to comply with the necessary population deviations under the new census figures.
He said some districts that crept close to being majority black under the last redistricting plan were pushed past 50 percent under the new plan while some that were over before are now less than half black.
"It was not done intentionally," he said. "Our goal wasn't to go out and create as many minority districts as we could. We wanted to keep communities of interest together."
Under the new plan, four districts that were less than 50 percent black by voting age population are now more than half black while two districts that had been higher are now under 50 percent. The net result is two new majority black districts.
The four districts now over are those of Reps. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, who rose from 48.6 percent black to 54.4 percent black; Amos Gourdine, D-Pineville, who went from 49.2 percent black to 51.1 percent black; Walter Lloyd, D-Walterboro, whose numbers increased from 44.4 percent to 50.9 percent; and Thayer Rivers, D-Ridgeland, who increased from 42.9 percent to 50.7 percent black.
Districts falling below the 50 percent margin were those of Jennings who dropped from 50.3 percent black to 47.1 percent black and Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews, who declined from 50.9 percent to 49.2 percent black.
Jennings believes the plan approved by the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee is GOP friendly and he will urge the governor to veto it unless it is changed.
With 71 Republicans and 53 Democrats in the House, that's unlikely. The bigger question is can Republicans pick up a dozen Democrats to override a veto.
"I am confident we have enough votes in the House to override a veto," Harrison said. "But I have no idea what will happen in the Senate."
Jennings, meanwhile, believes Democrats can sustain a gubernatorial veto.
Republicans lead the Senate by a more narrow margin, 24-22, but in the past, the House signed off on the Senate plan and the Senate did likewise with the House plan in what's known as a gentlemen's agreement.
Harrison foresees that happening again, even though the roles have switched now with Republicans in control of the Legislature and a Democrat in the governor's office.
He hopes the gentlemen's agreement would apply after a gubernatorial veto.
"Failure to override a veto is a violation of the gentlemen's agreement," he said. "You are impacting the other body's plan."
Nevertheless, if the Legislature doesn't override a veto, Harrison said all is not lost.
"If the House passes the plan and votes to override the veto even if the Senate does not, simply overriding in the House will give the plan considerable credibility in the court," he said.
The General Assembly returns Aug. 13 for a four-week session strictly to handle redistricting. They must adopt remap plans for the House, Senate and Congress by Sept. 7, or the courts take over.
Lawmakers return Sept. 19-21 to consider gubernatorial vetoes on redistricting.
A redistricting plan that creates 27 majority black districts and virtually assures Republican dominance of the South Carolina House of Representatives for the next decade was endorsed by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The GOP-controlled panel also adopted a congressional reapportionment package that gives favorable districts to all six members of the Palmetto State delegation (--) two Democrats and four Republicans.
The S.C. House redistricting plan was adopted by voice vote after members, voting largely along partisan lines, rejected Democrat-sponsored amendments.
The panel redrew new political boundary lines for 124 House seats, accepting much of what the subcommittee proposed last week.
Because of population shifts, the plan strips Richland County of a seat and adds new ones in Beaufort and Horry counties.
Black legislators now represent 25 districts in the state House. They hope to add to their numbers after the 2002 elections, and new majority-black districts would make that likely.
House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Marlboro, said unless the House makes changes in the current plan, he will encourage Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges to veto it. He accused the Republicans of engaging in heavy-handed tactics to keep Democrats from gaining any advantage.
"I think the Republicans have a political agenda here," Jennings said. "It's a very partisan plan that seeks to increase their numbers. We believe we can do better."
The General Assembly will convene in special session Aug. 13 to consider reapportionment issues.
Republicans hold a 71-53 majority in the House and a 24-22 majority in the Senate. However, it takes favorable votes from two thirds of members in both chambers to override an expected veto.
Republicans will need to pick up 12 Democrats to override an expected veto in the House.
"I think we can wrangle the necessary number of Democrats," said House Election Laws Subcommittee chairman Ron Fleming, R-Union. "Right now it looks pretty good. I'm not saying we have a lock."
Hodges spokesman Morton Brilliant said the governor is keeping an open mind. "What the governor is looking for are districts that make sense to their constituents. He would like to see districts that respect communities and neighborhoods, districts that are drawn for the people, not the politicians."
Under the House redistricting plan, six Democrats are pitted against each other: Jimmy Bales of Eastover against Joe Neal of Hopkins, Jennings of Bennettsville against Mary Beth Freeman of Cheraw, and Mickey Whatley against Seth Whipper, both of North Charleston.
"Three of our people will be out of here," Jennings said.
Democrats admit the two new districts in Beaufort and Horry are solidly Republican.
Under the plan approved, the GOP could pick up as many as six to eight seats, Jennings said.
"That's been their goal all along," the House Democratic leader said.
Democrats have the votes to sustain a veto, Jennings said. Their hope is the plan ends up in federal court, where Democrats think they will receive more favorable treatment.
Ten years ago, Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell vetoed the reapportionment plans of the Democratic-controlled legislature, and the federal courts drew lines for the General Assembly and the congressional delegation.
This year's congressional proposal passed by voice vote Monday, though Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison, D-Richland, expressed some concerns about its constitutionality and questioned whether it measured up to the standards of the federal Voting Rights Act.
He thought the plan adopted by the House Election Laws Subcommittee was superior in that it went to greater lengths to avoid splitting counties. Harrison voted for the amended congressional plan, he said, because he wanted to keep the proposal moving.
"This plan has a long ways to go," the chairman noted. "It certainly will end in a conference with the Senate," which has yet to adopt a reapportionment package.
As the redistricting plan was adopted Monday, members rejected most amendments.
However, supporters of U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence succeeded in getting the panel to put the white areas of Orangeburg and Calhoun counties back into the 2nd District and place Colleton County in the majority-black 6th District now represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.
State Sen. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, said he would work hard to keep the district plan intact in the Senate.
"I think we can. It all makes sense," said Wilson, a member of the Senate Judiciary redistricting subcommittee.
Lee Bandy covers politics. You can reach him at (803) 771-8648 or by e-mail at [email protected].
July 24, 2001
A House panel on Monday approved a new congressional reapportionment plan that gives favorable districts to all six members of the South Carolina delegation ó two Democrats and four Republicans.
The plan adopted by the Election Laws subcommittee was offered by state Rep. Jeff Young. It reduced the number of split counties from 13 to eight and left the districts substantially intact with minor changes. None of the changes would radically shift the political makeup of any memberís district.
It puts a western portion of Georgetown County into the 6th District, now held by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn, and places more of Berkeley County into the 1st District, now represented by Republican Henry Brown.
The 2nd District, represented by Rep. Floyd Spence of Lexington, contains all of Colleton and Beaufort counties and has a different cut of Aiken County.
District 3, now held by out-going Republican Lindsey Graham, is substantially unchanged, as is the 4th District, represented by Republican Jim DeMint of Greenville.
Darlington and Lee counties are put in the 5th District, and Sumter County is split, with Shaw Air Force Base remaining in Democrat John Sprattís district.
In the 6th District, the number of split counties is reduced from 11 to six, and Orangeburg and Calhoun counties are placed into the Pee Dee district.
The 6th remains a majority black district with a black voting age population of 57 percent, down from 61 percent.
Election Laws Subcommittee Chairman Ron Fleming, R-Union, offered a plan favored by Upstate Republicans to put Spartanburg County into the 5th District, now represented by Spratt of York.
ìThis would give Spartanburg a chance to elect a resident congressman,î he argued.
The proposal was rejected.
State Rep. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, testifying on behalf of Spence, tried unsuccessfully to get the panel to draw more of a Midlands district for the Republican congressman. He proposed swapping Colleton County for Newberry County and putting Beaufort into the 1st District.
ìLexington County has nothing in common with Beaufort,î he maintained. ìFurthermore, itís a 2‡-hour drive to Beaufort.î
ìWhy kick Spence in the teeth?î Knotts complained to House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison afterward. Harrison told Knotts to draw his own plan and offer it when the full committee meets Wednesday.
The district is considered a safe Republican seat. Last year, Spence won it with 57 percent of the vote. President Bush carried it with 58 percent.
The subcommittee also adopted minor changes to a South Carolina House redistricting plan that won approval at a July 10 meeting.
Chairman Fleming said the plan addressed concerns of House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Marlboro.
Still, the plan leaves Jennings facing freshman Rep. Mary Beth Freeman, D-Chesterfield, in the 2002 election.
ìItís a power grab,î Jennings protested.
State Rep. Walton McLeod, D-Newberry, offered a ìtraditionalî House redistricting plan that eliminated split precincts and counties. But it was rejected on a voice vote.
South Carolina is one of 18 states that must obtain ìpre-clearanceî for its remaps from the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act.
Lee Bandy covers politics. You can reach him at (803) 771-8648 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Lawmakers begin the work this week of redrawing the lines of power that will determine who will have to fight to keep office and who will represent the state for the next decade. Maps for new South Carolina House districts will be available Tuesday. An ideal House district will have 32,355 people, based on the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau. With Republicans in charge of both chambers of the General Assembly, Democrats say they will have to pick their battles.
"We'll look at it and see what is the end result before we say we want to defend something," said Joanie Lawson, executive director for the state Democratic Party. One congressional district that could get the most scrutiny is the oddly drawn 6th District, represented by Democrat Jim Clyburn. The district, which includes parts of Columbia, Florence, Orangeburg and Charleston, is the most out-of-balance based on the new census numbers. An ideal congressional district in South Carolina should have 668,669 people. Clyburn's district is about 10 percent short at 600,226 people.
Clyburn is South Carolina's lone black congressman. His district includes some of the largest black population areas of the state. "The 6th District is probably the most disorganized geographic district you could have anywhere," said Dwight Johnson, who oversees the state Republican Party's operations in that district. "It strings all the way up to the coast and down to Orangeburg." Johnson said his goal is to create a Pee Dee-Coastal district. On Thursday, a Senate subcommittee goes to Florence for its first public hearing on redistricting.
Hearings also are planned for April 9 in Columbia, April 10 in Greenville, April 11 in Charleston, April 12 in Rock Hill and April 16 in Aiken. Another Democratic district could be reconfigured. The 5th District, held by John Spratt, has about 655,525 people, also short of the target. Districts with extra population to spare are the 2nd and 1st Districts, both held by Republicans.
John Darby, Lawson's counterpart at
the GOP, has begun looking at the numbers. "I really do think we're going
to get lines out of the judiciary committees that are fair," he said. The
hearings will bring together political insiders, such as Johnson, with
voters. Johnson and others that are part of the process expect to hear a
good deal from people who are tired of living across the street from
neighbors who have different House or Senate members. "I would like to see
us using more traditional lines: county lines, rivers," said Sen. Brad
Hutto, D-Orangeburg and a member of the Senate's redistricting panel.
"That's the frustration that people have. "We would ask anybody who has
any interest whatsoever to come."
U.S. Sues Charleston County, S.C., Alleging Violation of Black Voting Rights
January 19, 2001
The at-large voting system in Charleston County, S.C., deprives black voters of representation and should be dismantled, the Justice Department maintains in what will most likely be the last civil rights case brought by the Clinton administration. All nine members of the Charleston County Council are elected by residents of the entire county, where whites are a majority of the 300,000 people.
As a result, the Justice Department said in a suit filed there on Wednesday, black voters have been unable to elect black representatives, a dilution of voting strength that the department says violates the Voting Rights Act. About 31 percent of the county's voting-age population is black. But the Council has only one black member, Tim Scott, a Republican who, the suit notes, was rejected by voters in the county's black precincts.
County officials, who pointed out that voters approved the at-large system in a 1989 referendum, said they would fight the suit. "Single-member districts are the worst thing that could happen to good government," said Barrett S. Lawrimore, the Council chairman, a retired university extension agent who lives in the city of Charleston. "I've seen it happen time and again that single-member representatives get too parochial and only care about their districts, not the common good.
"And we've already got a minority on the Council," he said of Mr. Scott. Samuel W. Howell, the county attorney, said he believed that lawyers in the Justice Department's civil rights division filed the suit in the last days of the Clinton administration because they feared that George W. Bush and his choice for attorney general, John Ashcroft, would be far less aggressive in pursuing voting rights cases. "The first we ever heard about this case was on Nov. 14," Mr. Howell said.
"You would think they would at least wait until the 2000 census figures for the county come out in April, because you can't possibly redesign the system until then. But they wanted to file this suit before the administration changes this weekend." Justice Department officials would not discuss the suit, but in a prepared statement Bill Lann Lee, the acting assistant attorney general for civil rights, said it had been filed to protect minority rights. "The Voting Rights Act guarantees that minority citizens have the opportunity for meaningful participation in the democratic process," said Mr. Lee, who is certain to be replaced in the new administration.
"We believe today's lawsuit will help bring down the barriers preventing Charleston County's black citizens from having an equal opportunity to elect representatives to their county government." The statement said the department had conducted an extensive investigation of the county's voting system. That inquiry ended on Nov. 14, and subsequent efforts to pursue a negotiated settlement with county officials were unsuccessful, the department said.
Since the Voting Rights Act was adopted in 1965, the Justice Department has filed many lawsuits, under presidents of both parties, to end at-large voting in cities and counties with large minority populations. In 1991, the administration of Mr. Bush's father sued the City of Houston, saying its at-large voting violated the rights of Hispanics; that suit was ultimately settled. The current suit says there are enough black voters living in compact areas of Charleston County that blacks could well be a majority in three of nine single-member districts there.
Black and white precincts consistently support different candidates for the Council, the suit says, adding that "white bloc voting usually results in the defeat of candidates who are preferred by black voters." Although Council candidates run countywide, they are required to live in specific districts of the county, and their terms are staggered. The result is that black and white candidates run head to head, the suit says, with the outcome usually victory by a white candidate. Mr. Scott, the only elected black Republican in South Carolina, said he preferred the at-large system.
"I don't like the idea of segregating everyone into smaller districts," he said. "Besides, the Justice Department assumes that the only way for African-Americans to have representation is to elect an African-American, and the same for whites. Obviously, my constituents don't think that's true." Voting for the Charleston County school board is also at large, he noted, and five of its nine members are black. School board members, however, run in nonpartisan elections; County Council candidates run with party affiliation, and Republicans dominate the county, where most black voters are Democrats.