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South Carolina asks to hold election on current congressional map

Supreme Court yet to rule on challenge that found 1st District an unconstitutional racial gerrymander

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is seen outside the  Capitol in February.
Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is seen outside the Capitol in February. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

South Carolina’s Republican legislature asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to allow the state to hold the 2024 elections on its existing congressional map, arguing an ongoing legal challenge has gone unresolved too close to imminent election deadlines.

The legislature told the justices in a filing that the state should be allowed to proceed under its existing map, despite a lower court ruling it could not be used because it likely violated the Constitution’s protections against racial discrimination.

The state’s candidate filing process was already scheduled to begin and the current pause “invited chaos and uncertainty into South Carolina’s Congressional elections,” the filing said.

The filing is separate from the pending Supreme Court case over the state’s map, on which the justices heard oral arguments in the fall but have yet to issue an opinion.

State lawmakers originally asked the court to decide that case before the end of December. The state currently has its primary scheduled for June 11. The Supreme Court normally decides cases by the conclusion of the term at the end of June.

Even if the court were to decide that case Wednesday, the legislators said, there would not be enough time to implement a new map before the primary election.

South Carolina’s 2024 primary election cycle began on March 16 with the opening of the candidate filing period, and candidates for all offices other than president have only 14 days from today to file to be on the ballot, the state legislature told the justices.

The dispute centers on lines drawn after the 2020 census for the state’s 1st District, currently held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, who first won the seat in 2020.

A panel of three lower court judges wrote last year that legislators deliberately moved 30,000 Black residents from Charleston County out of the district to keep the population about 17 percent Black.

The Republican-controlled legislature moved the voters from the district held by Mace to the district held by the state’s sole Democrat, Rep. James E. Clyburn.

The judges wrote that targeting Black voters in that way preserved the desired tilt of the district in Republicans’ favor and ordered the state to draw a new map by last March. However, the case was put on hold pending the Supreme Court opinion.

In Wednesday’s filing, the state legislature cited numerous decisions before the 2022 midterm election where the Supreme Court ordered states to proceed under maps that lower courts had found likely violated the law.

The most prominent of those was Alabama, where the court allowed the 2022 election to proceed under the old map before ultimately ruling 5-4 last year that the state had to draw a new one to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Following that Supreme Court decision, Alabama and Louisiana drew new congressional districts in advance of the 2024 election.

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