Supreme Court agrees to hear racial gerrymandering case

 May 16, 2023

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear a case from South Carolina that challenges a lower court ruling that the state's Republicans had racially gerrymandered the state's electoral map for one of its legislative districts. 

The state's Republican lawmakers argued in their appeal that the lower court did not look at the South Carolina General Assembly’s intent, presume good faith, or analyze the Congressional district as a whole when it ruled that they had racially gerrymandered the 1st district.

The lawmakers also said the lower court judge “disregarded the publicly available election data.”

“[W]hereas race is highly correlated with politics, election data is perfectly correlated with politics,” they wrote. “The panel never tried to explain why the General Assembly would use race as a proxy for politics when it could (and did) use election data directly for politics.”

Which way will the court go?

As an example of the impact redrawing the map had on the district, Rep. Nancy Mace (R) won by one point in 2020 and 14 points in 2022. Some of that impact could have been from the power of incumbency, however.

The ACLU supported the lawsuit and weighed in on the Supreme Court's decision.

“The lower court reached its decision by applying firmly-rooted Supreme Court precedent to well-supported factual findings,” ACLU of South Carolina legal director Allen Chaney said in statement. “Now that the case is on appeal, we expect that the Supreme Court will follow a similar path and affirm.”

But is it really realistic to assume that the Court with its current conservative makeup will agree with the ACLU, which sees many things as racially motivated that conservatives don't?

"Circumstantial" evidence

Those who originally brought the lawsuit said they have "circumstantial" evidence that the map's redrawers deliberately tried to dilute the impact of the black vote in the district for racial reasons.

They argued that the Supreme Court had relied on such evidence in prior cases.

It wasn't immediately clear how the challengers knew there were racial reasons for the map redrawing.

South Carolina's Black population has increased in recent years, and the fact that most Blacks typically vote Democrat allegedly gave lawmakers the motivation to redraw the maps in a way that would lessen that impact.

A request

The case will take some time to adjudicate, but lawmakers requested that they schedule oral arguments by November and render their decision by January 2024, to give enough time to prepare for the 2024 presidential election cycle.

Trump won South Carolina in 2020 by over 11%, so any map redrawing may not impact the statewide result much, but it could impact the House race in that district.

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