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Court says South Carolina can use current congressional map

Judges say the Supreme Court has taken too long to decide challenge to 1st District lines

South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace is seen outside the Capitol on Feb. 29, 2024.
South Carolina Republican Rep. Nancy Mace is seen outside the Capitol on Feb. 29, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

South Carolina can use its current congressional map for the fall election, a panel of federal judges ruled Thursday, finding the Supreme Court has taken too long to decide an appeal over a ruling that the map is likely unconstitutional.

Last year, the three-judge panel found the state’s congressional map likely was unconstitutional because it racially gerrymandered Black voters out of the state’s 1st District, currently held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace.

State legislators appealed to the Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the fall. Both sides initially asked the justices for a quick decision in the case, so that a new map could be implemented before this year’s elections.

But the Supreme Court has yet to issue a decision. Because of that, earlier this month, the state legislature asked the original three-judge panel to let them use the existing map this year, as there was too little time to make any changes before the state primary in June.

The panel agreed in a ruling Thursday, finding that although the map was likely unconstitutional, there was too little time to make changes this year.

“But with the primary election procedures rapidly approaching, the appeal before the Supreme Court still pending, and no remedial plan in place, the ideal must bend to the practical,” the ruling said.

The legislators also have filed an emergency appeal with the Supreme Court, asking the justices to intervene and allow them to run this year’s election on the old map. It was not immediately clear Thursday what the lower court’s order would mean for that pending Supreme Court application.

The three judges originally found that the legislature likely discriminated against Black voters by moving 30,000 of them out of the district currently held by Mace and into the district held by the state’s sole Democrat, Rep. James E. Clyburn.

The legislators in their appeal argued they did so for partisan reasons.

The justices are set to issue their decision in the original appeal by the conclusion of the term at the end of June, potentially allowing a new map in the state in time for the 2026 congressional elections.

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