1.12: Redistricting: a 2-year,
3-act play climaxes
(Week of March 26, 2002)
MARCH 22, 2002 - - The recent every-decade process
of reapportioning South Carolina's S.C. House, S.C. Senate and U.S.
House districts has been a three-act play:
ACT ONE: The Republican House and Senate draw new
maps, which are rejected by the Democratic governor. The highly
partisan wrangling then sends the whole ball of wax to the federal
courts to decide.
ACT TWO: The court considers arguments by the governor
and legislators, but issues maps that look similar to current 1992
lines - sending a clear message that it doesn't want to be put in
the position of brokering partisan battles of one-upsmanship.
ACT THREE: Lawmakers scramble to make sense of
the remapping, but Democrats and Republicans generally rejoice and
Seriously, most people around the Statehouse this
week said the court must have done a pretty good job in drawing
new lines because both sides claimed victory. (To read the court's
113-page Wednesday order with lots of details, go to: http://www.scd.uscourts.gov/Districts/FINALORDER.pdf
Here's a quick overview of what the courts did
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS: In the current
districts, Rep. James Clyburn's Sixth District is an amoeba that
stretches from Columbia to Beaufort and Charleston to Florence.
It covers all or parts of 16 counties.
Under the new plan, the court compressed the Sixth
District into 13 counties. That allowed some counties to have only
one congressman: Beaufort (2nd District), Darlington (5th District)
and Colleton (6th District). The First District lost the western
part of Georgetown and part of Moncks Corner, but picked up some
of downtown Charleston. The Third, Fourth and Fifth District look
virtually the same. The Fifth District did, however, for the first
time pick up a small chunk of Florence County. As one observer noted,
the districts are about the same, but the court cleaned up a lot
of little problems and kept communities together.
SC SENATE DISTRICTS: Senate districts are
remarkably similar to the plan approved last year by the state Senate.
The court did, however, decide to maintain the majority of the Lexington
district held by Democratic Sen. Nikki Setzler. Now Congressman
Joe Wilson had proposed a plan to change Setzler's seat to become
drastically different (i.e., more Republican).
SC HOUSE SEATS. With 124 seats to redraw,
the potential for sweeping change was far greater, but the court
appeared to base its new map on the 1992 version, with several exceptions.
Here are highlights:
- The court increased the number of black majority
House seats from 25 to 29 - - a move that made the Legislative
Black Caucus happy. The redrawing, however, made changes so that
the remaining 96 districts didn't necessarily become "whiter,"
sources said. The court, instead, put people in districts that
made sense based on their geography, they said.
- Sumter and Charleston lost one House seat each.
In Sumter County, Republican Reps. Jeff Young and Murrell Smith
were consolidated into one district; in Charleston, Democratic
Reps. Mickey Whatley and Seth Whipper are now in one district.
- The court brought geographic communities back
together in several places. Edisto Beach, for example, will vote
with Edisto Island. St. Helena Island in Beaufort County is part
of the same district, not split between two. Colleton County is
represented by three House members, not five in the 1992 map.
The court's plan also did not split Hartsville, Laurens and part
of Union County, as in proposals before it.
WHAT'S NEXT. Over the next few months, Statehouse
Report will take a more in-depth look at various new districts to
highlight how changed lines may affect the make-up of next year's
House of Representatives. Not surprisingly, Republicans say they'll
pick up a half dozen seats. Democrats? They say they'll pick up
more. We'll know in November.