South Carolina's Redistricting News
The State: "Senate
remap plan is fair, McConnell insists." February 7, 2002
Sen. Glenn McConnell defended the Senate's redistricting plan in federal court Wednesday, saying the plan is fair and should survive attack by "sharks" on the Democratic and Republican sides.
Attorneys for Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges would put McConnell among those sharks, saying he backed a map that jeopardized Sen. Nikki Setzler, a longtime Lexington Democrat.
But McConnell, the president pro tem of the Senate and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he tried to help Democrats and Republicans get districts they liked if they supported his plan.
McConnell said party pressure prevented the General Assembly from passing its own lines, as required by law.
That failure sent the line-drawing duties to a three-judge federal panel.
"We were in shark-infested waters," said McConnell, R-Charleston.
Republicans wanted to maximize their influence, drawing districts they'd be more likely to win. Democrats were corralling their votes because they wanted the courts to draw the plan, McConnell said.
Last summer, as legislators were debating plans, McConnell said, members of his own party were already "threatening revolt" because his plan did not press their advantage.
He said he needed all the Republican votes and many of the Democratic votes to pass a plan.
So he said he had no motivation to help anyone who was not voting for it, especially Setzler.
The map that was ultimately approved by the Senate makes wholesale changes in the district of Setzler, a senator since 1977.
Then-Sen. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, proposed flopping the body of his suburban District 23 for the body of Setzler's more rural District 26.
Attorneys for Hodges argued Wednesday this was an intentional move to put Setzler into a more conservative area. The change proved political decisions influenced the map, Hodges' attorney Lee Parks said.
"It was a threat to (Setzler's) political future," Parks said.
Wilson made the amendment swapping 80 percent of his district for Setzler's on Aug. 16, the day U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence died. Wilson has since won election to Spence's seat.
When Setzler did not back the Senate plan, McConnell said, he let Wilson and Senate Republicans have their way.
"I'd have spoken for him (Setzler), but I wasn't getting the votes, so I wasn't getting in front of the freight train," McConnell said.
McConnell said the change did not violate districting policy, such as a requirement to keep communities together.
Setzler was in the courtroom, shaking his head during McConnell's testimony. He may be called to testify later in the week.
Redistricting in South Carolina last week turned into a turf battle between Reps. James Clyburn (D) and Joe Wilson (R), both of whom urged a panel of federal judges to draw two major military installations into their new House districts.
Fort Jackson, the Army's largest training base, and McEntire Air National Guard Base are currently represented by Wilson, who won a special election last year to fill the late Rep. Floyd Spence's (R) term. Wilson wants to keep the bases, but last week Clyburn told a panel of judges drawing the lines that his 10 years of experience give him access to the money and influence needed to ensure that the bases maintain their status and importance.
"In order for [Wilson] to get to Fort Jackson, he has to pass by my house," Clyburn said.
Clyburn drew some support in his endeavor from Gov. Jim Hodges (D), who said the move would best serve the needs of South Carolina and the military installations because of Clyburn's seniority and seat on the Appropriations Committee.
Hodges' attorney, Richard Gergel, told local newspapers that Clyburn first suggested that Jackson and McEntire be put in his district shortly after Spence died last August. Spence was chairman of the Armed Services Committee for six years.
The three federal judges hearing the state's redistricting case asked House leaders and Gov. Jim Hodges Thursday to make one final effort to resolve their differences.
If they cannot, then the court will draw the new legislative and congressional lines.
But 4th Circuit Judge William Traxler warned that legislators might not like what the court comes up with.
The judges would draw lines according to population numbers, natural boundaries and other raw calculations. They would not be concerned about protecting incumbents' districts or disrupting political aspirations, he said.
"There is a whole lot for each side to gain and a whole lot for each side to lose," Traxler said. "We'd much rather not have to do this.
"We will if we have to."
The admonition came on the fourth day of the federal case on redrawing legislative district lines. It was an eleventh-hour warning, after attorneys for the House and for Hodges had all but completed their case.
All that remains in the House portion of the trial are brief presentations from Colleton County, Georgetown County and the American Civil Liberties' Union.
House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, said he would talk with legislators about a compromise, but he was not optimistic.
Wilkins and House Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison met with Hodges after last fall's veto to talk about compromise. "It was a non-starter," Wilkins said.
Hodges said negotiation would be difficult, particularly after months of preparing for trial and a tense week in court.
"The case has moved pretty far along," Hodges said.
The warning did not bode well for Republicans, who now have a 71-53 majority in the House and hoped to gain seats after redistricting.
Attorneys for the governor have been arguing that Republicans discriminated against blacks in drawing a half-dozen districts.
If Democrats gain an advantage in some of those seats with a new map, the balance of power could level out in the House.
In other action Thursday, Hodges took the witness stand.
He was the last of 10 witnesses in the House segment of the federal trial.
Hodges said he would have signed a Republican-led legislative redistricting plan had he not felt it discriminated against black people.
He said he worried about Republicans' decisions to split areas such as Hartsville, Laurens, and St. Helena Island in Beaufort County.
Hodges also said he did not like Republicans' moving predominantly black precincts from majority-white districts -- such as the Carlisle precinct in Union County and the Chalk Hill precinct in Lexington County.
Republican House leaders had argued they had legitimate reasons for moving these areas. Some were used to bolster the black population of neighboring majority-black districts, as required by law.
Hodges said he did not accept those arguments.
"It appeared to me that what was taken out were those areas that had a large African-American population," Hodges said. "It appeared to me there was a method behind that."
Hodges said he vetoed the House, Senate and congressional plans because they drew too many "super-white" districts, more than 75 percent white.
Hodges said legislative districts should be diverse like the state, which is 30 percent black. "I'm a strong believer that diversity makes legislators have a deeper understanding of people who are different from them."
Speaker Wilkins had testified Wednesday that Hodges sabotaged legislative plans in order to thwart the General Assembly's drawing its own lines.
By vetoing the plan, Hodges forced the line-drawing duties into court, where he thought his party might benefit, Wilkins said.
Wilkins claimed Hodges also wanted to delay redistricting because it would delay filing periods and primaries -- a boon for an incumbent governor.
Hodges said in an interview Thursday he was "surprised and amused" by Wilkins' criticism. He denied it.
Two of the three federal judges hearing the stateís case on redrawing legislative districts said Tuesday they were troubled by decisions about race made by House Republicans.
The judgesí questions gave the first insight into how the court is responding to arguments from the Republican-led House and Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges.
But after the questions ended the day in court, House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, said he did not attach any great significance to the comments, as they came on the second day of a monthlong trial .
Senior U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry said he was reluctant ìto open up a hornetís nestî but wanted to ask Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison why the House divided black voters in certain communities.
Hodgesí lead attorney Richard Gergel had argued the House illegally used race to ìbleachî black voters from a half-dozen districts.
Gergel accused the House of splitting St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, and the cities of Laurens and Hartsville, among other moves to make districts more white.
Harrison said he tried to draw districts while considering all interests that make a community, such as school districts and socio-economic factors.
Harrison also said he had to be mindful of the effect changes to one district had on those around it, particularly if a neighboring district was majority-black and the number of black voters could not legally be lowered.
Perry said he was ìnot satisfiedî with Harrisonís reasons for moving blocs of black voters.
Perry said Harrison spoke about keeping communities together, but his actions seemed to focus on manipulating the percentages of black voters.
The percentages of black and white voters play a major role in determining the candidates elected in districts.
In other questioning, Chief U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson asked Harrison about the Judiciary Committeeís voting down a ìnon-polarizationî resolution.
The resolution would have made not separating white and black voters an official criterion for drawing districts. It failed on a party-line vote.
Anderson asked why the House didnít condemn polarization ó ìpackingî black voters into one district and ìbleachingî them from another to minimize their voting power.
Harrison said the criteria was already in federal law ó the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
ìWe knew we couldnít pack, we knew we couldnít bleach,î Harrison said.
Anderson replied, ìIt may be superfluous, but itís unfortunate that we have the defeat of this resolution before us.î
Harrison, R-Richland, is expected to take the stand this morning to answer more of the judgesí questions.
In other testimony, Harrison explained why the predominantly black Chalk Hill precinct in Lexington County had been taken from a black legislatorís district and put into a white oneís.
Harrison had testified that Rep. Jake Knotts used a racial epithet in telling him that people in Lexington County did not want a black representative.
Harrison said that mind-set disgusted him, so he was determined to leave Chalk Hill in the district of Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, who is black.
But Gergel read from the deposition of another legislator, Rep. Ron Fleming, R-Union, who testified that it was Knotts ó not the people he represented ó who did not want a black man on his delegation.
Harrison said he ultimately moved Chalk Hill into the district of Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, who is white. Harrison said Smith asked for the change.
Smith has declined to comment, as he expects to testify on the matter.
Gergel said the proof was not in Harrisonís words, but his deeds. Gergel asked: ìWas the goal ultimately accomplished, of keeping a black man?î
Said Harrison: ìAs a result, no black man is on the Lexington delegation.î
House Republicans admitted Monday they used a secret "black dot" computer program during redistricting to show where black voters live, but denied using it to discriminate.
During his testimony in the first day of the lawsuit in federal court, House Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison acknowledged the "black dot" program was used, but only to ensure the state complied with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That law prohibits district lines that diminish black voters' influence on elections.
Harrison also acknowledged he ordered his staff attorneys not to print out copies of the maps.
Gov. Jim Hodges' lead attorney, Richard Gergel, asked Harrison about his printing policy.
"You had an instruction to your staff that they were to do everything a legislator asked them to do, except print a dot-density map?" Gergel asked.
Harrison responded: "I thought that you would do exactly what you're doing here today, which is allege that decisions were made on dot density."
That allegation is "absolutely false," Harrison said.
In this federal case, Hodges charges Republicans broke the law with their redistricting plan, and the black dot program was part of a move to illegally bleach districts of black voters.
Gergel said the black dot program shows an effort to fracture blocks of black voters and dilute their power. One example he cited is in the city of Laurens, now in one House district. But the plan approved by the House would divide the city of 9,900 people into three districts, with lower percentages of black voters.
The "black-dot" discussion came near the end of more than four hours of testimony from Harrison, who is expected to take the stand again this morning.
Harrison, R-Richland, is the first witness in the state's case on redrawing legislative and congressional district lines.
The General Assembly is required to redraw lines every 10 years with new census numbers to make sure all districts are roughly equal in size. Race can be a factor, but not the predominant factor, in drawing districts.
The Republican-led House and Senate passed a plan last summer, but Hodges vetoed it, forcing the federal courts to take over the redistricting duties.
Hodges and House Speaker David Wilkins were among more than 20 attorneys seated at tables to participate in the trial's first day.
Gergel went on the offensive. He introduced a deposition from Rep. Ron Fleming, R-Union, to back up his allegation Rep. Jake Knotts used a racial epithet in trying to keep a black legislator off the Lexington County delegation.
"(Knotts) said he didn't want any blacks on the delegation," Fleming, chairman of the House's redistricting subcommittee, said in the deposition. He is expected to testify later in the week.
Representing the House, lead attorney Reggie Lloyd said Hodges and Democratic leaders developed a strategy to tear down the Republican plan and stop any Democratic support for it.
Hodges and minority leader Doug Jennings made accusations of racism about Harrison and other Republicans, Lloyd said. Their goal was to keep the General Assembly from doing its job -- drawing lines.
"At worst, this can be called a disgusting abuse of the legislative process and legislative will," Lloyd said.
Lloyd also laid out how the House drew its lines and the factors it considered, such as coastal growth and stagnant population in the Pee Dee. The House also considered county lines and other common interests, Lloyd said.
The court case is expected to take about a month. Then the three-judge panel will decide how to draw lines and release its findings in the early spring.
Harrison also said he instructed his staff to draw a map for Rep. Mickey Whatley, D-Charleston, that would drop the percentage of black voters in his district to 40 percent, down from 46 percent. But the resulting map was not used.
The House Judiciary Committee chairman told three federal judges Monday that he ordered at least one House district map drawn in a way that would cut black voting age population to help a longtime Democratic friend in the Legislature.
Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, spent four hours testifying in the first day of a redistricting lawsuit trial that will determine how district lines are drawn for 124 House and 46 Senate seats, as well as the state's six-member U.S. House delegation.
The Legislature has to redraw district lines every decade to deal with population changes reflected by the census to make sure each voter has equal representation.
Richard Gergel, one of the half-dozen lawyers representing Gov. Jim Hodges, demanded that Harrison answer "yes" or "no" about whether he ordered a map drawn with fewer black voting-age residents in the district now held by Rep. Mickey Whatley, D-North Charleston.
Harrison was reluctant to answer until 4th Circuit Appeals Court Judge William Traxler told him he could explain the answer.
"Yes, sir," Harrison said. He explained that he only asked for the map after Whatley hounded him for help in holding onto his seat. The resulting map cut the black voting age population to just under 40 percent, as Whatley asked, down from 46 percent.
But that effort was an empty gesture, Harrison said. He never considered the map as he put together the House's state redistricting plan.
"Did I put it in our plan? Hell no," Harrison said.
Gergel pressed Harrison about maps that used black dots to show the concentration of black voters and wanted to know why he'd instructed the committee's staff not to print maps. Gergel said that was an effort to eliminate a paper trail of racial gerrymandering.
"I don't know how you can draw a district map and not be conscious of race," Harrison said during one exchange.
Harrison said he "was obligated to use dot density maps." Without them, it would be impossible to draw district maps that didn't erode black voting rights, he said.
"Race must be taken into account" when drawing the lines, said American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Laughlin McDonald during his opening argument. "I don't think anyone must apologize for that fact."
The ACLU has only a handful of complaints about the way the House drew its plan or the plan that Hodges countered with.
Harrison said the order not to print the maps came because he thought Gergel "would do exactly what you are doing today."
The redistricting case is in federal court after Hodges, a Democrat, vetoed the redistricting plans approved by the Republican-majority General Assembly.
As the trial started Monday, it appeared the lawyers needed a redistricting map of their own. In all, more than two-dozen lawyers vied for table space. Hodges sat through opening arguments, but left before Harrison testified.
Each time Gergel said district lines were drawn based on race, Harrison replied they were drawn to reflect population changes and how they were addressed by agreements among legislators or in an effort to keep communities or interest groups together.
The governor's going to take the stand.
So are the speaker of the House, the president pro tem of the Senate, as well as a Columbia University professor, a State House computer guy and a dozen more witnesses.
Three federal judges will hear the case; 26 attorneys will be presenting it.
This morning, the state goes on trial for failing to redraw legislative and congressional district lines according to the 2000 census.
The constitutional goal is to draw lines to match the census numbers, with a roughly equal number of people in each district.
The philosophy is to draw districts with common interests, such as county lines and media markets. It's also to protect the ability of black people to elect the candidates they want.
The reality is that redistricting, as complicated and numbingly technical as it can be, is about politics.
"The overriding interest here is partisan and essentially trying to dictate the rules in the game," said Brad Gomez, political science professor at the University of South Carolina.
"The party that dictates the rules for how districts are drawn has some manipulable control over what the district is going to look like and who's going to win," Gomez said.
The lines determine political futures, not just of individual politicians, but of the state as a whole.
Redistricting in the 1990s contributed to the Republican takeover of the state House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
And, historically, redistricting plays a role in determining the party that leads Congress.
With so much at stake and so many plaintiffs involved, the case will be complicated, taking as long as a month.
What Everyone Wants
Two groups are suing the governor, the Senate and the House separately - because the General Assembly collectively was unable to pass a plan that the governor would sign.
Colleton County is one plaintiff. With 38,000 people, the small rural county is about the ideal size for one S.C. House seat.
But instead of having one legislator, the county has been drawn into pieces. The plan that the Republican-led House and Senate approved splits Colleton among five state House members, three senators and two congressmen. A plan backed by the governor has similar splits.
The American Civil Liberties Union also is suing. It regularly intervenes in redistricting cases to ensure the interests of black voters are preserved.
The ACLU wants to make sure black voters can elect the candidates they choose. That generally means creating as many majority-black districts as possible.
Even with Colleton County's and the ACLU's involvement, most of the court's time is likely to be spent on the arguments of Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and the Republican-led House and Senate.
The Republicans want the court to approve the plans they passed.
They say the plans were drawn according to the law. They had the popular support of the House and Senate, even though they were vetoed by the governor.
"I think they will take our plan and, at most, make some minor adjustments to it," said Jim Harrison, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee charged with drawing plans.
Democrats want the court to consider a plan drawn by the governor's demographer.
They say Republicans were trying to "bleach" districts, to make them more than 75 percent white. They say Republicans want to minimize the influence of black voters, grouping them in majority-black districts and leaving super-white districts that tend to vote Republican.
In a brief, Hodges' attorneys say the legislative plan polarizes voters and "turns the demography of South Carolina completely on its head."
As with any high-stakes court case, there will be bombshells. One already has leaked.
Hodges' attorneys argue that Republicans drew districts based on race.
Harrison will be the first witness to take the stand Monday as a witness for the House. He said he anticipates being asked whether the House plan was racially constructed.
Specifically, he will be asked whether Rep. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, used a racial slur in objecting to having a black legislator represent Lexington County.
Knotts said he did not use an epithet and was only passing on concerns of some constituents.
Harrison said he is eager to testify. "I anticipate right now the first thing my attorney is going to do is go through every lie" in Hodges' case, Harrison said.
The governor's office said it stands by its brief.
Cost? More than $1 Million
The evidence will be voluminous and technical.
Statisticians will testify about voting patterns in South Carolina.
Colleton County and the governor's attorneys will introduce evidence from government computers, tracing when district lines were drawn and who drew them.
They also will introduce a log book from the House "map room" - the members-only room for drawing new districts.
The three-judge panel has indicated that it would like to hear the case over the next month, with the balance of February spent drawing its own maps or adjusting existing ones.
The court has indicated that it would like to have new maps ready by early March, in time for the mid-March filing deadline to run for political offices.
If not, primaries could be delayed, which, in turn, would affect campaigns.
Dave Woodard, a political science professor at Clemson University, is helping run two Upstate congressional campaigns. He said that campaigns write budgets, raise money, hire staff, and organize on a schedule based on the election day.
"If that date is missed, it has a tremendous ripple effect on all the campaigns in the state," Woodard said.
So the case is big, the evidence vast and the implications huge.
What about the cost?
The best guess is more than $1 million, mostly in tax dollars, when it's all said and done.
And it's just getting started.
For whom you vote and when you vote will be affected by a trial that starts here Monday.
A three-judge panel of federal judges will begin hearing testimony in the state's once-a-decade realignment of all 176 legislative districts for the Senate, House of Representatives and Congress.
How the lines are drawn will determine whose name is on the ballot in each district and which political party wins favor.
Republicans and Democrats are hoping for a decision before mid-March, when filing begins for the June primary elections. The trial is scheduled through Feb. 8, with testimony on the House-redistricting plan up first, followed by Congress- and Senate-plan witnesses.
The GOP-controlled Legislature drew plans last summer based on 2000 Census figures released last March. Democrats shunned the proposals, saying they created too many new GOP districts, and Democrat Gov. Jim Hodges vetoed the plans because he claimed they were unfair.
Republicans assert the Democratic governor killed the proposals and created a legislative impasse to force redistricting into court and delay the elections for political gain.Democrats say the federal judges will be more favorable to them than the Republican-dominated General Assembly while Republicans claim a delay would give the eventual GOP gubernatorial nominee less time to campaign against the governor before the November election.
"That's not true," the governor said. "If I felt that way, I wouldn't have agreed to expedite the trial and have it heard in January. I vetoed the plan because it was a bad plan for South Carolina. It divided too many communities up. It was polarizing, and it was not consistent with the best interests of South Carolina."
Hodges said the redistricting plan substantially decreased minority representation in a number of districts and gobbled up Democratic House districts in North Charleston and Richland County in favor of new Republican voting areas in Horry and Beaufort counties.
Rep. Mickey Whatley, D-North Charleston, will lose his seat if the court approves the House plan.
Bringing the matter to court were individuals from Colleton and Georgetown counties, several GOP senators who wanted a more Republican Senate plan, and the American Civil Liberties Union. They sued the governor and House and Senate leaders to get better plans.
But House and Senate GOP leaders are confident their plans will pass muster.
The minority party holds out hope for a more Democratic-friendly plan from the court.
"In my opinion, we are needlessly in court," Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said. "I followed traditional redistricting principles and avoided retrogression without making race the predominant factor."
Court decisions in the 1990s say race can be a factor when drawing districts, but it can't be the prevailing reason.
The Charleston Republican who is a witness in the trial said he tried to balance competing interests with a plan that doesn't maximize gains for Republicans or Democrats while other plans that didn't pass did exactly that.
"The Republicans think I'm too soft, and the Democrats want more districts," he said. "I tried to hold onto my votes and move the plan through while the caucuses were dueling to maximize their gains. It's a fair plan, and it passed with bipartisan support."
Since all 124 House members and the six congressional districts are up for election this year, House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison - also a witness - believes the court may rule on those two plans first. Senators don't run for re-election until 2004 so there's no need for an immediate decision on their plan.
"It appears the judges are interested in coming to some resolution so as not to delay the election," the Columbia Republican said. "I'm optimistic the court will see the House plan was an open process for everyone and it meets the constitutional and statutory standards."
House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Bennettsville, believes the judges will see the GOP plans as unfair and accept a Democratic proposal.
"We are very encouraged that the allegations we made will be supported by the evidence and testimony," he said. "We trust the judicial process to produce an end result of a fair plan for South Carolina."
University of South Carolina political scientist Blease Graham believes the plans stand a good chance of being accepted because of the technical legal standards they must meet. They include district continuity, compactness, communities of interest, minimal cuts across county lines and not using race as the predominant factor.
"I would think there would be a fairly good technical basis for all of the plans," he said.
Graham said part of the challenge facing lawmakers was to allocate population growth that was mostly suburban and white. That growth tends to be Republican and chews into rural Democratic districts when the lines are redrawn.
"We also may have some reluctance from the governor's office not to recognize Republican success because of the population growth," he said.
The three judges who will hear the case are former civil rights fighter Matthew Perry of Columbia, ex-Democratic lawmaker Joseph Anderson, also of Columbia, and one-time Democratic Greenville County solicitor William Traxler. Perry and Anderson are U.S. District Court judges while Traxler sits on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.
They can accept the plans as drawn, accept opposing plans offered by other parties such as the governor's office, accept part of a plan and ask lawmakers to redraw some districts or reject the plans and draw the lines themselves.
In a brief filed in federal court this week, a lawyer for Gov. Jim Hodges says a West Columbia legislator used a racial slur as he argued that a black lawmaker should not represent part of Lexington County.
However, leaders of the state House say attorneys for the Democratic governor misquoted and used words from GOP Rep. Jake Knotts out of context, attributing them to him instead of his constituents.
The briefs were filed as part of a lawsuit to be heard Monday by a three-judge panel in U.S. District Court, which will help redraw district lines around the state.
"We're not going to try this case in the press," Hodges' spokesman Jay Reiff said Thursday. ''We will try it in court."
In the brief filed Wednesday, Richard Gergel, the private lawyer handling the lawsuit for Hodges, says race was illegally used to draw district lines for the House. Gergel would not comment Thursday.
"The most striking example of using race as the criterion for drawing district lines occurred in connection with a West Columbia district called Chalk Hill," Gergel wrote in the brief filed on behalf of Hodges.
Gergel said Knotts didn't want the majority black precinct in his district, and it was "passed around to various Lexington County House members, but none of the Lexington County representatives wanted it in their district."
A plan emerged to put the precinct in the district of Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Joe Neal, D-Hopkins, but Gergel said Knotts objected to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison, in charge of House redistricting.
The brief states that after a map was drawn placing the Chalk Hill precinct in Neal's district, Knotts complained to Harrison about having a black person on the legislative delegation. The brief states that Knotts used a racial epithet when he complained.
Gergel said Knotts told Harrison, R-Columbia, that the "head of the Ku Klux Klan lived in Chalk Hill and apparently did not want to be represented by Mr. Neal."
Gergel said after Knotts' remarks, Chalk Hill was put into the district of Rep. James Smith, a white Columbia Democrat.
The governor's brief angered Knotts, Harrison and House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville.
"The quote in the brief is entirely different than Mr. Harrison's testimony," Wilkins said. "It's false, it's misleading, and I'm quite surprised the governor would include it in his brief."
Upon reading the brief, Knotts threw it across his office, uttered a string of obscenities, then said, "I don't believe that the governor of our state of South Carolina would stoop to be this low. ... That is an outright blatant lie."
Knotts said he was merely relaying to Harrison threats made by constituents in the staunchly Republican county.
"Those people do not represent my district or the views of my county," he said. He said he wanted to make sure Harrison was prepared if those constituents showed up at a public hearing.
In the deposition, Harrison stressed that Knotts was repeating what others had told him.
The city will try again to redraw its voting districts based on population changes after the Justice Department rejected its first effort.
City officials learned Monday that the initial redistricting plan, which had the potential to reduce the number of black-majority districts to four from six, had been turned down.
The city elections, originally planned for next month, were delayed rather than allowing them to be held under the 10-year-old district map.
The Justice Department's main objection was that one of the majority-black districts was in danger of becoming majority-white with growth. Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said the city plans to revise its district map rather than contest the department's decision.
"I can see their point,'' Riley said. "I think it's important that we move forward.''
The Justice Department said that because the city became whiter according to the last Census, it would be impossible to maintain six majority-black districts and have districts with roughly the same number of residents.
Council member Kwadjo Campbell said Monday he was pleased with the Justice Department's ruling. He and the four other black city councilors had voted against the plan. There are 12 councilors.
Riley said a revised plan will be presented Oct. 30, and could receive final council approval in November. Then it would be sent back to the Justice Department, which would have 60 days for review. If approved, city elections could be held as soon as January or as late as April.
The U.S. Justice Department has rejected the city of Charleston's proposed redistricting plan, citing concerns it could harm minority representation on City Council by potentially slicing the number of majority-black districts from six to four, officials learned Monday.
The news came in the form of a letter faxed to the city late Friday night and guarantees that this year's already-delayed council elections probably will not take place until at least February.
Specifically, the department ruled that one of the redrawn majority-black districts, which combined two peninsula-based districts and included Daniel Island, would have been in danger of soon becoming majority-white, according to the letter.
Few minorities live in Daniel Island's upscale neighborhoods, and the concern was that as the island continues to develop, its voters would overpower the majority-black neighborhoods on the peninsula.
Had that occurred, the number of black council members could have dropped to four. While council has maintained a balance of six black and six white members for the last quarter-century, suburban growth has made Charleston a whiter city than it was when lines were last redrawn after the 1990 census.
The city's plan had reflected those changes by including a new district in West Ashley and combining districts 2 and 4, currently represented by Kwadjo Campbell and Robert Mitchell. That would have the effect of reducing the number of majority-black districts from six to five. If their district became majority-white, the number could then drop to four.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. said the city does not plan to contest the department's decision. Instead, it will submit a revised plan that addresses the issue raised by the department.
"I can see their point," Riley said. "I think it's important that we move forward."
The department's objection can be easily overcome, he said, by shifting Daniel Island into District 1, which includes most of the southern tip of the peninsula and already is majority-white. Ansonborough would then be placed in the combined district, called District 4, to replace the lost re- sidents. Ansonborough also is a nearly all-white neighborhood. But because it is one of the cityís oldest and most established neighborhoods, it would be unlikely to add enough new residents to change the racial composition of the district.
Riley said the changes will not require a major overhaul of the redistricting plan. The departmentís only objection was with the inclusion of Daniel Island into the combined district, not with the decision to draw five rather than six majority-black districts, he noted.
The department ruled that it would not be possible to draw six majority-black districts and also comply with the "one-person, one-vote" rule, which requires that districts contain an even number of voters. The city has become a whiter since the 1990 census, and there are not enough black voters to make up a majority in six different districts.
"The fact that they found, after a lengthy and thorough analysis, only one point of disagreement I think is very good," Riley said.
Campbell, who said he would prefer to have held this yearís elections under the current districts, said Monday he was pleased with the ruling. He and four other black council members, including Mitchell, voted against the plan when it was before council.
Campbell had proposed an alternative plan that combined two other majority-black districts, District 6, which includes part of West Ashley, and District 7, which is entirely made up of West Ashley residents.
That effort failed, and council passed the first plan by an 8-5 vote. Now, he said he might propose the plan again, or at least push for debate of other options.
"Itíll give us a chance to get some more input into the process," he said.
Mitchell said he also welcomed the ruling. Losing one seat was difficult, but losing two would have been a bitter blow, he said.
Both Campbell and Mitchell said they plan to run for the seat in their combined district.
The next step in the process will be for council to approve a redrawn plan. Riley said a revised plan will be presented at councilís Oct. 30 meeting and could receive final approval in November. The plan then would be sent back to the Justice Department, which would have 60 days for review.
Depending on how long it takes to receive approval - and assuming the department does not reject the redrawn plan - the election could be held as soon as January or as late as April.
Finally, Circuit Judge Danny Pieper would have to lift an injunction that prevented the city from moving forward with the elections in November. The ruling, based on the fact that using the current, unbalanced districts would violate the one-person, one vote principle, was designed to give the city time to receive approval from the Justice Department for new districts.
Jason Hardin covers the city of Charleston. Contact him at 937-5549 or at [email protected].
To prevent disruptions in next year's elections, Gov. Jim Hodges wants a speedy trial to settle partisan wrangling over redrawing the state's political districts.
In a motion filed Tuesday, Hodges joined House Speaker David Wilkins and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell in requesting an expedited trial to settle lawsuits over establishing new political lines for the General Assembly and congressional seats.
Hodges, according to the governor's motion, "agrees that this case should be scheduled to eliminate or minimize any disruption of the regular election cycle in South Carolina." The governor agreed the trial should begin Jan. 22, 2002.
The governor in August vetoed plans approved by the Legislature to redraw the state's legislative districts. He said the plans created too many districts with overwhelming percentages of white voters.
The General Assembly could not override the vetoes, sending the reapportionment issue to federal court.
Leaders within the Republican-led Legislature had accused the Democratic governor of vetoing the reapportionment plan to delay elections, including the gubernatorial primary. Delaying the GOP primary would benefit Hodges by shortening the fall campaign against him, the Republicans said.
A Hodges spokeswoman said the governor does not have a hidden agenda.
"This response shows the governor's determination to expedite the trial and proceedings for reapportionment," said Cortney Owings, Hodges' spokeswoman. "It has never been the governor's intention to delay the primary as proven by his chosen trial date."
Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, the assistant majority leader, commended Hodges' action. But she said the governor is trying to counter criticism should the legal proceedings become extended and affect elections.
"I would like to think that this means the governor agrees with us that it is a fair map that has been put out there," Allison said. "And, hopefully, we can have a speedy reconciliation of it from the courts and be able to move into a June primary and move on with our elections in 2002."
In his veto of the reapportionment plan, Hodges said the state cannot afford to "take such a step backward" in race relations and equal opportunity.
"The governor believes that their plan was not an accurate representation of South Carolina," Owings said. "Governor Hodges wants a reapportionment plan that does not divide neighborhoods or communities, particularly communities of interest."
Hodges also spelled out ground rules, proposing that all parties submit their reapportionment plans by Oct. 24.
Awash in a sea of patriotic fervor over the recent terrorist attacks, lawmakers officially ended their protracted 2001 session Wednesday after House Speaker David Wilkins confirmed a legislative solution is out of reach over redistricting.
"We are hopelessly deadlocked," the Greenville Republican said at the end of the 45-minute session. "We are at an impasse with the governor."
Forty-four of the 87 House members present waived the $260 extra session salary. Most still received $95 subsistence each and 34.5 cents per mile for attending the session that closed the legislative arm of reapportionment.
Redistricting, the once-per-decade process of redrawing the state's 176 Senate, House and congressional districts to comply with new census figures, now rests with a three-judge federal panel.
Shortly after the House failed on Sept. 4 to override Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges' veto of the Republican-led remap plan, Colleton County sued, saying the state is out of compliance with laws mandating new district lines. A group of Republican senators also sued.
Those suits, and any others that might be filed, are expected to be heard together.
No date has been set, but House Judiciary Chairman Jim Harrison said Wednesday the House will ask the court to hear the case in late January and hope for a ruling before filing for office begins in mid-March.
"That would give us time to keep the election on track," he said.
Harrison said the House will file its answers to the lawsuits today and move for a scheduling order from the court.
Lawmakers ended the session with thoughts of those killed during the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C.
Wilkins led the opening prayer, a moment usually expressed by any of the other 123 House members, and miniature state and U.S. flags graced each member's desk.
"We are hurt, we are grieving, we are frustrated, and we are angry," Wilkins said in his prayer. "Turn our hurt into hope, our grief into comfort, our despair into reassurance, our bewilderment into understanding, our confusion into wisdom and our shock into resolve. Make us even stronger as one nation, indivisible under God."
House Clerk Sandy McKinney said Wilkins asked for the show of flags on Tuesday and they could not be found anywhere in South Carolina.
"We had to get them from Georgia," she said.
Warren Wise covers the Legislature and state government. Contact him at (803) 799-1165 or at [email protected]
The fight over legislative redistricting this year has been over creating districts where blacks can more easily influence an election.
And that's likely to continue to be the focus as the battle shifts to the federal courts. In the past, the redistricting fight was over creating more seats that black leaders can win. That resulted in more African-Americans in the General Assembly, but also created more districts that were overwhelmingly white.
Democrats, including Gov. Jim Hodges, say the creation of too many "super-majority" white districts has reduced the influence of African-Americans in the General Assembly. Democrats argue that white legislators elected from overwhelmingly white districts don't have to concern themselves with African-American issues in order to be re-elected.
Hodges cited the need for more "minority-influence" districts in his decision last month to veto redistricting plans passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. The plans created too many districts with white populations of 75 percent or more, Hodges said.
Republicans, who failed to override Hodges' veto last week, disagree with the governor's figures. They claim his concern over minority-influence districts was a ploy to send the issue to federal court, where Democrats may get a redistricting plan more favorable to them.
Republicans say their redistricting plans were based on factors such as where people live and where population grew in the 1990s. They also say their plans create more districts where minorities can have a greater voice in choosing their representatives.
Despite the political wrangling, it's clear that minority-influence districts will be a key issue in the upcoming court fight.
Black leaders say the fight over the Confederate flag highlighted the need for minority-influence districts.
Polls showed that most voters wanted the flag to come down from the State House dome.
But Rep. Joe Neal, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said legislators from super-white districts did not listen to black concerns during the flag debate because they knew they would suffer no consequences on Election Day.
Legislative districts are not drawn to reflect a cross section of South Carolinians, but rather where people live and what politicians want districts to look like.
Under the reapportionment plan used to elect last year's General Assembly, some districts were more than 50 percent black. Others were more than 80 percent white.
"I think there's a natural tendency in those types of districts to take extreme positions," said Neal, D-Richland.
As a result, Neal said, it's difficult for any issue of concern to African-Americans to be passed by the General Assembly.
'Extreme political apartheid'
Hodges said the Republicans did not create enough districts where 25 percent or more of the voters were black.
Republicans say Democrats are using an arbitrary number to make a faulty argument. The number is arbitrary because no court has established any definition for a minority-influence district, said Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Richland, chairman of the Judiciary
Committee that drew the House lines.
The concept is faulty because the courts prohibit states from using race as the defining factor in creating districts, Harrison said. These minority-influence districts, by definition, are drawn for racial reasons, Harrison said.
"There is no statute or case law that requires legislatures to create what's being referred to as an influence district," Harrison said. "In fact, it's difficult to do that because race can't be the principal factor."
South Carolina is not alone in grappling with "minority-influence," or "opportunity-to-elect," districts.
All states are struggling to follow the Voting Rights Act of 1965 without polarizing voters, said Tim Storey, a redistricting specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"It is one of the key questions of this round of redistricting, trying to find what is the right number of (minority) voters in a given district," Storey said.
The S.C. General Assembly met in special session in August to work on reapportionment, the redrawing of district lines every 10 years to align with new census numbers. The state is constitutionally required to draw each district with the same population, to ensure everyone's vote has equal weight.
The General Assembly essentially finished its special session Tuesday, when the House failed to override the governor's veto.
The court battle began three hours later, when Colleton County sued over the lack of a new reapportionment plan and the way that county is chopped up under the existing map.
Storey said the special session and early lawsuit puts South Carolina "fairly quick out of the gate" in what will be the trend in redistricting nationwide.
The governor is wise to try to set a number--25 percent--to see how the courts will respond, Storey said. And the Republicans are taking an appropriate legal tack by disputing the existence of "opportunity" districts and the validity of a number establishing them.
Neal, of the Legislative Black Caucus, said his goal is not to create a certain number of a certain type of district. Rather, he wants to avoid polarization of "black" districts and "white" districts.
"It creates an artificial division much deeper than is necessary, and it creates what I call an extreme political apartheid in the state," Neal said.
In the 1990s, the Legislative Black Caucus worked with Republicans to create more districts that are majority black, so African-Americans could increase the number of black legislators. At the same time, Republicans were able to increase the number of majority-white districts.
But black legislators said Republicans are taking the polarization of voters farther than they intended.
'Toeing the Democratic line'
Republicans say they don't want to polarize anyone. They want to draw districts according to where people live, where they share schools, churches, TV markets and other marks of community.
They also are following population trends. More people are living on the coasts and in suburbs of cities such as Greenville and Columbia, so the lines reflect that change in power.
The strategy of minority-influence districts is just a way to push the line-drawing duties into court, where judges might draw lines that help Democrats, Republicans say.
"They're toeing the Democratic line that says, 'Attack it, say it's a racist plan, and get into court,' " Harrison said.
The American Civil Liberties Union has intervened in S.C. reapportionment cases in the past and may do so again, said Laughlin McDonald, director of the group's Southern Regional Office in Atlanta.
"The history of discrimination against blacks has been pervasive and total since the day that place became a state," McDonald said. "Our concern is that black voters have equal opportunity and not be used or manipulated by the parties for their political advantage."
That manipulation includes influence districts, a concept McDonald calls a "nonterm" and a way of offering black voters "second-best."
The ACLU wants to make sure black voters can elect the candidates they choose, and that generally means creating as many majority-black districts as possible.
Said McDonald: "The focus is the right of voters to participate fully, not just influence."
Staff writer Chris Roberts contributed to this report. Valerie Bauerlein covers state government and the Legislature. You can reach her at (803) 771-8485 or by e-mail at [email protected]
Three Republican senators have sued over the impasse between the General Assembly and Gov. Jim Hodges on redrawing election districts.
Hugh Leatherman of Florence, Scott Richardson of Hilton Head Island and Wes Hayes of Rock Hill filed the suit Thursday in Columbia.
The lawsuit names Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, and state Election Commission Director James Hendrix as defendants.
The lawsuit says the legislative effort to redraw the lines has resulted in a deadlock and there is no real chance lawmakers can have a plan ready for next year's elections.
The Colleton County Council filed a similar suit earlier last week.
The lawsuits on redistricting will be decided by a three-judge federal panel, which will draw the lines.
A Colleton County lawsuit put the problem of drawing Statehouse and U.S. House district lines in the hands of federal judges.
During the next few days and weeks, the court is expected to see similar cases as the process of setting new voting districts after each decade's census follows a familiar path to federal court.
On Wednesday, the Colleton County case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry in Columbia. The lawsuit seeks a hearing before a three-judge panel that would probably include Judge Perry, a 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge and another U.S. District Court judge.
Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges and the Republican-controlled Legislature sparred over the redistricting plan. The state constitution requires the Legislature to redraw district lines every decade to account for changes in population and protect the one-man, one-vote election principle. Mr. Hodges vetoed the Legislature's plan, and the House failed to override that veto Tuesday.
House Speaker David Wilkins said a meeting with Mr. Hodges on Wednesday yielded little progress.
''For now, I think it's safe to say we've agreed to disagree,'' Mr. Wilkins said.
Courts generally won't get involved in redistricting cases unless lawmakers are at an impasse, said Charleston lawyer Gedney Howe, who has worked on previous redistricting cases.
In 1991, a redistricting lawsuit was filed in October after the House and Senate adjourned without finishing a plan. The court refused to take action until the following February after the Democratic-controlled Legislature finished the bill but failed to override a veto from Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell.
South Carolina is one of a handful of states whose redistricting plans are going to court, said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver. Others include Texas, Illinois and Oregon.
New Jersey's redistricting issues have been decided in federal court, and Republicans there have dropped plans to appeal, Mr. Storey said. ''The next thing you'll see is a multiplicity of suits,'' said former House Speaker Bob Sheheen, a Camden lawyer. Mr. Sheheen presided over the House during the last redistricting court fight.
Republicans need Democrats to override Gov. Jim Hodges' veto of a redistricting plan today as the Legislature returns in a special session.
Hodges vetoed the redistricting plan Friday. He said the plan, which is required from the Legislature every decade to reflect shifts in state population, improperly diminished black voting power in House and Senate districts around the state.
Now the issue is back before the Legislature, where GOP leaders hope to peel off as many as a dozen House Democrats and seven in the Senate to override Hodges' veto.
That's not going to happen, said House Minority Leader Doug Jennings, D-Bennettsville. "We are united," he said. But what if Republicans succeed?
"I cannot imagine that happening," Jennings said.
"It's going to be a very, very close vote," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, who said he has been counting and recounting support from Democrats to override.
But Harrison also knows that a veto override can depend as much on people not voting as it does on those who do.
An override requires votes from two thirds of the House and Senate.
For instance, if all 124 House members were present and voted, it would take 83 votes to override a veto. If all of the House's 71 Republicans voted for the override, Harrison would still need at least 12 Democrats' votes. But if a dozen Democrats left the room and didn't vote, the two-thirds vote would be based on 112 present. Then, Harrison would need only four Democrats to vote to override.
"I'd rather have 12 Democratic votes to override," he said.
Jennings said he'd heard Harrison was encouraging people to take a walk when it came time to vote. "I am confident that our folks feel strong enough about this issue and what it means to South Carolina that they will be there to cast their vote," he said.
It's a high-stakes game for Democrats.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said that any legislator voting to override Hodges' veto is "too stupid to serve, and they will be beat in the primary" as the party supports their opponents.
If the override attempt fails, the House already has a redistricting committee meeting scheduled for Wednesday to retool the plan. Jennings said he hopes that happens in a spirit of compromise and not under a cloud of retribution.
If the override attempt succeeds in the House, the override effort becomes more complex in the Senate. Republicans hold 24 seats to Democrats' 22 Senate seats. That means as many as seven Democrats would have to vote to override, depending on how many senators actually vote.
Gov. Jim Hodges on Friday vetoed a Republican bill on how to redraw district lines for seats in the Legislature and the U.S. House.
Lawmakers will try Tuesday to override the Democratic governor's veto, though legislative leaders concede it's a nearly impossible task. Additional plans could be considered later in the week, but most observers expect the fight over district lines to end up in federal court.
As with many recent redistricting fights in the South, this one comes down to party and race.
''Rather than following traditional redistricting principles that would respect the rich diversity of our great state, the proposed redistricting plans divide and polarize South Carolina along racial lines,'' Mr. Hodges wrote to House Speaker David Wilkins.
Mr. Wilkins, a Republican, said Friday the lines were properly drawn to reflect population shifts and the state's 15 percent growth since districts were last drawn after the 1990 census.
''We just think that's cover,'' Mr. Wilkins said when asked about Mr. Hodges' reasons for vetoing the bill. ''He never intended to let us draw these lines.''
Prospects to override the veto are dim. Republicans would need votes from two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate who attend Tuesday's special meeting.
In the House, that would require 83 votes if all members are present. With 71
Republicans, 12 Democrats would have to vote for the GOP's plan for it to pass. The situation is even worse in the Senate, where the 24 Republicans need six more votes from Democrats to get the plan to pass.
Any Democrats thinking about straying too far from the party line better be ready to pay the consequences, state Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian says.
Any legislator voting to override a veto is ''too stupid to serve, and they will be beat in the primary,'' he said.
Mr. Hodges said he also vetoed the Republican plan to redraw the U.S. House districts because it would unnecessarily split several counties.
But Mr. Hodges' main complaint on the plan was that it failed to reflect the racial breakdown of South Carolina, which is about 30 percent black.
The bill ''appears predominantly focused on limiting the number of districts in which African Americans can reasonably be expected to play a meaningful role in influencing the outcome of elections and the formation of legislative policy,'' Mr. Hodges wrote.
The governor was especially upset over 10 House districts and five Senate districts where, he said, the Republicans intentionally removed black voters so the districts would be less than 25 percent black.
The plan ''is both unlawful under federal law and profoundly wrong as a matter of public policy,'' Mr. Hodges wrote. ''We can do better.''
The S.C. Senate passed a redistricting plan Wednesday night that would leave most of the state's 46 districts essentially the same and would be "easily legally defensible in court," President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said.
But the plan was opposed by most Democrats and all seven African-American senators, in part because it would shake up two Lexington County districts with little warning.
The plan would shift Cayce and West Columbia from Sen. Nikki Setzler's District 26 to Sen. Joe Wilson's District 23. Setzler would pick up most of the suburban and rural parts of Lexington County, areas that tend to vote Republican.
Setzler said he would lose 50,000 people he has represented for 24 years. A Senate district has 87,000 people.
"It's pure unadulterated politics," said Setzler, D-Lexington.
The black senators said the plan did not create enough districts where blacks make up 20 percent to 30 percent of the vote (--) districts where they can influence the election and platform of the senators.
"One of the things that's very significant about this plan is not one African-American senator voted for it, and not one African-American House member voted for it," said Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland. "I think that makes a compelling case if it ever goes to court."
The Senate passed its plan on a 27-17 vote, with three Democrats in favor. The Senate also gave approval to plans redrawing S.C. House and congressional lines.
Now the Senate must wait for the House to give its perfunctory approval next week. Then the plan goes to the governor.
Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges is expected to veto the redistricting plan but has not said whether he would do so this fall or at the end of the year. House and Senate leaders have acknowledged the redrawing of district lines is likely to be settled in court.
For weeks, McConnell had said he hoped to have the Senate plan pass by 31 votes, enough to override a veto.
To that end, the Senate plan adhered to strict criteria about maintaining county boundaries where possible and other lines that create communities. It also did not seek to create many more seats that could be won by Republicans, McConnell said.
McConnell said partisan politics got in the way of getting Democratic votes.
The most significant example was with Setzler's district.
Wilson proposed the change, on behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus. "It becomes more suburban, and rural, and Republican."
Wilson, who declared his candidacy Wednesday morning for the congressional seat left open by the death of Floyd Spence, said he was not worried about changing the lines for whoever is the next senator. "The district lines are important in how you're elected," Wilson said. "When you serve, you serve all the people."
Setzler said the districts were changed with no public hearing and were originally approved last Thursday night by the Senate's Judiciary Committee without notifying Setzler.
Setzler might have protected his district had he voted with the Republicans on the overall plan, McConnell said. Democratic Sen. William O'Dell avoided major changes to his Abbeville district by agreeing to vote with Republicans.
" (Setzler) wasn't supporting the plan," McConnell said, giving him no reason to intervene on Setzler's behalf.
The state NAACP made its first statement on redistricting Wednesday, with the first of what leaders said would be a series of news conferences.
"Our concern is not solely about the complexion of the Senate but primarily the resulting disenfranchisement of voters in South Carolina," executive director Dwight James said.
James said the redistricting plans, once approved by the House and Senate, would be sent to the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore for review.
The state chapter has not hired any attorneys thus far.
Valerie Bauerlein covers state government and the Legislature. You can reach her at (803) 771-8485 or by e-mail at [email protected].
Last time we did this, there was no equivocation, no question about goals and, though some denied it, no doubt about motives.
From the moment the first discussions about redistricting began, Republicans made it clear that they wanted to draw as many majority-black legislative districts as they possibly could. While they talked in noble terms about how that was the right thing to do -- and how the U.S. Justice Department was demanding that it be done -- the fact was that doing so resulted in more lily-white districts, where Republican candidates were almost certain to win.
Although at first reluctant to work with Republicans, black Democrats, at least black Democrats in the House, likewise wanted to draw as many black-majority districts as possible. That would mean more black Democrats would be elected.
And white Democrats solidly opposed the idea of "maximization," as it was called. They said it would polarize the state, by teaching white officials that they only needed to pay attention to white voters and teaching black officials that they only needed to pay attention to black voters. And for some of them, that truly was the motivation. But the fact is that as you increase the number of districts that are super-white and the number of districts that are majority-black, you decrease the number of districts a white Democrat stands a chance of winning.
With the Justice Department, which must sign off on district changes in South Carolina, egging them on, the maximizers were brash about their intentions.
There was, for instance, the Justice Department memo showing that the demographer who drew the House plan boasted that the nine new majority-black districts would "screw white boy Democrats" and be "blacker than usual." There was testimony from white Democrats who said black legislators let them adjust plans proposed by the Legislative Black Caucus and House Republicans -- as long as their districts were at least 57 percent black. There was the committee transcript in which an architect of the House plan said race was his motivation for the district configuration."
But when the U.S. Supreme Court turned decades of map-drawing strategy on its head by ruling that it was usually unconstitutional to make race the predominant factor in drawing districts, those words came back to haunt them in court. In fact, the words probably played as big a role as the maps in convincing a panel of judges to throw out eight black-majority districts.
So this time around, everyone is being very careful about how they talk about their own intentions, so much so that their claims are at times laughable. They only become reckless when they talk about plans they oppose.
So we have Democrats -- white and black working together this time -- complaining that the Republicans "bleached" an extra 10 districts, increasing from 68 to 78 the number in which fewer than 25 percent of the adults are black. And we have Republicans countering that 50 of the 124 districts proposed by Democrats would have fewer black voters than they do now.
The relevance of each claim is hard to judge.
Clearly, Republicans want as many districts as possible that they can win, and in South Carolina that means districts that are overwhelmingly white. Just as clearly, Democrats want as many districts as possible that they can win. And in South Carolina, that means districts that are not overwhelmingly white.
Sit in front of a computer with either goal in mind, and you can find ways to accomplish it.
But despite what Democrats charge, the demographic fact is that if you ignore voters' race when you craft a plan, a certain number of districts will be more than 75 percent white -- the state's adult population is 70 percent white -- simply because of where people live.
And despite what Republicans charge, the mathematical fact is that when districts are redrawn, they are either going to become more white or more black or stay the same; without any attention to race, you'd expect that a large number of them would become more white, since there are more white people in the state than black people.
Unlike last time, the question this year is whether either side intentionally manipulated the numbers. And if either side did, the great mystery is whether the courts would do a double-reverse and say that manipulating race the way Republicans say Democrats did is not as inappropriate as manipulating it the way Democrats say Republicans did.
Ms. Scoppe can be reached at [email protected] or at (803) 771-8571.
What a Week for the Buzz!
The special session on reapportionment brought the General Assembly to town in the heat of the Columbia summer.
The legislators were a little rowdy, making the House chamber feel like a cross between summer school and student council elections.
What's The Fuss?
On Monday, state Rep. John Graham Altman of Charleston questioned what Democrats were so upset about.
Altman said the Republican-backed redistricting plan did not go near as far in pressing partisan advantage as "meat-eaters" such as Altman wanted.
"It's very hot lately in August, and we've all seen Democrats standing around outside without wearing their hats," Altman said. "They're just all starting to act really goofy."
Republicans even softened on putting Minority Leader Doug Jennings and freshman legislator Mary Beth Freeman in the same Pee Dee district.
Altman said he did not fight the splitting of the two.
"I got tired of the whining," Altman said. "They've got a whine machine that's audible all over the Southeast. It's either that or earmuffs."
Voting Against a Friend
All week, the air-conditioning in the House chamber was unmercifully cold, perhaps to lower temperatures and tempers.
Representatives took turns being offended, or equally offended, or extremely offended.
Rep. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, gave an earnest speech, a la "Mr. Sheheen Goes to Columbia," asking for help to keep his district intact.
"Why won't my amendment be allowed to pass? Because it means Vincent Sheheen might be allowed to come back. That's what it means."
Sheheen, a freshman legislator and nephew of former House Speaker Bob Sheheen, said he'd lost some faith in the legislative process, by watching the partisanship of redistricting.
Sheheen did thank Rep. Jay Lucas of Darlington, a Republican and friend, for his efforts to help. Lucas ultimately voted with his party colleagues to include suburban and Republican areas in Sheheen's district.
Lucas said not voting with Sheheen was the toughest decision he ever had to make.
"Sometimes if you don't vote with somebody, it doesn't mean you love them any less," Lucas said. "My only regret is I couldn't help everybody. I guess that's why we hate this process so much."
An Alleged Meeting
Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry, later ridiculed his Republican peers on the Election Laws Subcommittee for holding meetings but taking no recommendations from the subcommittee's two Democrats (--) McLeod and John Scott of Richland.
Responding to criticism that not everyone attended the public hearings and meetings, McLeod pulled out his calendar to verify the date of the first "allegedly deliberative" meeting.
McLeod said he didn't miss a one, for all the good it did him. "I drove a Mercury Sable, 1992, to every single subcommittee meeting. I think there was 10."
McLeod credited subcommittee chairman Ron Fleming, R-Union, with consistency if nothing else.
"Having an argument or trying to talk with Chairman Fleming is like trying to blow out a light bulb. You just can't do it."
At times, Rep Jim Harrison, R-Richland, showed his temper.
In a speech Wednesday, Harrison outed Reps. Mickey Whatley of Charleston and Jimmy Bales of Richland as two Democrats who had said they would vote with Republicans to override a veto in exchange for safe districts.
Bales and Whatley said Harrison's remarks were untrue.
Harrison later said he apologized if he had misrepresented his conversations with Bales and Whatley. "You say things in the heat of the moment, you shouldn't."
Harrison also apologized if anyone took his requests for support as threatening.
"If just because I'm chairman of the (judiciary) committee and I went to you and said, 'I want to get your support,' if that intimidates you, I'm sorry."
Bales and Whatley, who are drawn into districts with other Democrats, said they accepted Harrison's apology.
But Rep. Joe Neal, who will be in Bales' district if these lines take effect, said he was told twice he could save his Lower Richland district with a vote to override.
"I don't know what you call it, but I call it coercion," Neal said.
A Very Dead Plan
The Senate offered up a few laughs as well, as senators ground through reapportionment plans in judiciary subcommittee and committee meetings.
The biggest joke was unintentional.
Democrats Tommy Moore of Aiken, Brad Hutto of Orangeburg and Robert Ford of Charleston submitted a plan that pitted two incumbents together.
But not just any incumbents. The plan pitted Ford, who admitted he had not seen the plan, against his friend, President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell.
Ford immediately moved to table the plan. "You put me with Glenn?" he said to Hutto and Moore. "That don't even make sense."
"I'm smart enough not to put the chairman of the Judiciary Committee in with someone else," Moore said.
The Senate gave perfunctory approval to its redistricting plan Friday morning but postponed all debate and any changes until next week.
Senators spent only a few minutes Friday morning on redistricting, one of the most politically contentious issues they face.
They agreed to begin debate Tuesday at noon, or ìhigh noon,î as President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell termed it.
The Senate might postpone debate again if the Tuesday session conflicts with the funeral services for U.S. Rep. Floyd Spence.
McConnell, R-Charleston, has been trying to build a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to support the plan drawn by Senate attorneys.
Two Democrats voted with Republicans on Friday ó Dick Elliott of Horry and Yancey McGill of Williamsburg.
The Senate is split, with 24 Republicans and 22 Democrats. McConnell is looking for 30 votes ó enough to override Democratic Gov. Jim Hodgesí veto, should he offer one.
But McConnell said he is having a hard time getting the center to hold.
Republicans are pushing to move district lines, lowering the percentage of black voters in some districts. Historically, districts that are majority-white tend to be Republican.
Democrats are pushing to spread black voters among many districts, creating minority influence even in districts that are not majority black.
ìThis is a delicate situation for some of us politically,î McConnell said. ìWhatís important is to try to maintain the middle approach as best as I can keep it together.î