In December 2021, the South Carolina Legislature adopted a new electoral map. This process, called redistricting, is done every 10 years following the U.S. Census. While it’s normal to see some changes, this map made some big changes to several Congressional districts. After seeing the newly drawn map, ACLU SC joined with its partners to file suit on the grounds that the newly drawn map was racially gerrymandered.
During an eight-day trial in the fall of 2022, plaintiffs highlighted how the South Carolina Legislature intentionally moved tens of thousands of Black voters in and out of different Congressional districts in order to suppress their voting power and benefit Republican politicians. Though State lawmakers argued that they moved voters based on their party, not race, the Court did not buy it. Instead, the panel of federal judges unanimously ruled that “[s]tate legislators are free to consider a broad array of factors in the design of a legislative district, including partisanship, but they may not use race as a predominant factor and may not use partisanship as a proxy for race,” as they did in designing aspects of South Carolina’s congressional map.
Black voters and their allies, as well as experts in demography, political science, redistricting, and mathematics described the harm that the current congressional map has on Black voters compared to race-neutral alternative map options. That the enacted plan was an extreme outlier in its shape and impact on Black voters (compared to thousands of computer-generated race neutral plans) provided further support to already strong evidence of unconstitutional line-drawing by the state. Indeed, the court found that aspects of South Carolina’s congressional map had “bleached” Black voters out of a district and made a “mockery” of traditional districting principles.
In January 2023, the three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the First Congressional District, which comprises much of South Carolina’s coastline between Charleston and the Georgia line, is an illegal and discriminatory racial gerrymander and must be redrawn. The judges gave the state until March 31, 2023 to comply with the order.
Why this case?
Our clients, Taiwan Scott and the South Carolina NAACP, are fighting for basic protections and fundamental components of democracy. We are representing them because we believe in the same principles: that one person should have one vote; that every person is deserving of equal protection under the law; and that voters should choose their representatives and not the other way around.
After being ordered to redraw maps, the state appealed the decision. Oral arguments took place before the Supreme Court of the United States on October 11, 2023, where the case is now titled Alexander v. SC NAACP. For more information and to read more filings, see the Supreme Court Docket.