COLUMBIA, S.C. — In a victory for voting rights, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Chairman of the House Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee agree to introduce and encourage enactment of a bill that would adjust South Carolina state House district lines in some of the most historically significant areas of the state for Black voters. If the bill fails to become law by May 17, 2022 — which requires action by both the Senate and Governor—the lawsuit against the House reapportionment plan could continue.
The move stems from a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups that charged some of the new districts intentionally discriminated against Black communities in the state and denied Black voters equal opportunity to participate in the political process and elect candidates of their choice.
The case was brought on behalf of the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP (SC NAACP) and an individual voter, Taiwan Scott, who are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. (LDF), the ACLU of South Carolina, Boroughs Bryant LLC, Arnold & Porter, and the General Counsel’s Office of the NAACP.
The lawsuit alleged racial gerrymandering and intentional discrimination in 29 districts aimed at diluting the voting power of Black voters.
Under the agreement announced today, the amended maps will restore Black voters’ opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice in Orangeburg, Richland, Kershaw, Dillon, and Horry counties.
The groups were poised to go to trial on May 16 if an agreement had not been reached. They are still headed to trial over the U.S. congressional map this fall.
The following comments are from:
South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP President Brenda Murphy: “Today is a victory for the Black community in South Carolina. Today marks a historical occasion: our political leadership has listened to our grievances and is working to create a more equitable political landscape. We have successfully petitioned our government for increased political access, and now Black communities in Richland/Kershaw, Orangeburg, and Dillon/Horry will have a greater chance of electing their preferred candidates. But this is just a first step to providing equitable voting power for Black South Carolinians. We will continue to work with our elected officials to ensure that all our communities have a voice in our democratic institutions.”
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Somil Trivedi: “This agreement is a historic victory for South Carolina voters and the constitutional guarantee of fair maps. State legislatures hold so many critical rights in their hands, making it all the more vital that the people choose those representatives — not the other way around.”
Allen Chaney, legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina: “Any redistricting map that arises exclusively from self-interested politicians will inevitably fail voters. While I am certainly pleased by this settlement, the voters need the next South Carolina redistricting process to be more independent, transparent, and accountable.”
LDF Assistant Counsel John S. Cusick: “Today’s settlement is encouraging for all those who wish to see the South Carolina Legislature fulfill its obligation to ensure equal representation for Black voters in South Carolina. During a flawed and non-transparent legislative process, the SC NAACP and partners urged legislators to pass fair and non-discriminatory maps that recognized Black South Carolinians' right to electoral access throughout their state. That did not happen. But what is now required, following this settlement, is legislation to increase electoral opportunities and voting access for Black South Carolinians in certain areas of the state.”
Chris Bryant of the law firm Boroughs Bryant LLC: “The South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP has been an active and vocal participant throughout the redistricting process, and we are happy that legislators, through this settlement, have listened and meaningfully responded. The democratic process only works when legislators meaningfully engage with their constituents, and we hope this settlement marks the start of more active engagement between legislators and the citizens of South Carolina.”
John A. Freedman, Arnold & Porter’s senior pro bono counsel: “We are proud to stand with our client and to have succeeded in achieving a fairer map for Black South Carolinians. We look forward to continuing our fight to achieve a fairer congressional map as well.”
The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Columbia, S.C.