South Carolina’s newest congressional seat will be in the Grand Strand, as expected, according to a draft plan up for debate in a legislative subcommittee today.
The state gained a seventh spot in Congress after the latest Census results showed South Carolina as one of the nation’s fastest-growing states. Much of the population growth came along the coast. Since each district much be as equal in population in possible (this year, they are roughly 660,000 each), the proposal means many in the Lowcountry and Pee Dee will have a new representative in Washington after 2012.
The new Seventh District starts along the coast in Georgetown and Horry counties and expands westward into Florence, Marion, Dillon, Marlboro, and Darlington counties. It is considered to be a safely Republican seat.
Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) is chairing the House panel tasked with drawing out the new maps. Ironically, Clemmons is rumored to be considering a possible run for the new congressional seat he helped draw.
To accommodate for the new district, legislators shifted Congressman Tim Scott’s First District to the suburbs of Charleston and south to the Beaufort and Hilton Head region, which also saw population spikes in the past decade. Scott lost the metro and North Charleston region. The move strengthens the district’s Republican leanings.
Meanwhile, Congressman Joe Wilson’s Second District moves out of the Beaufort region and focuses more on the Midlands. The Second District now stretches west out of the Columbia suburbs towards Aiken and the Savannah River, shedding Allendale, Hampton, and Jasper counties. Experts say the district now leans more heavily Republican.
Congressman Jim Clyburn’s majority-black Sixth District grew southward, picking up downtown Charleston, as well as Allendale, Hampton, and Jasper counties. Since the Sixth is what’s known as a “minority-majority” district (whites make up a minority of its population), federal law prevents it from being drawn as a majority-white district.
As a result, mapmakers shifted North Charleston (where African-Americans make up a plurality) and the southern end of what’s known as the “I-95 Corridor” (where African-Americans are a majority) into the Sixth.
The consequence of the move, however, is that the other six seats have relatively small minority populations. Outside of Clyburn’s minority-majority Sixth, only one other district (Mick Mulvaney’s Fifth) is more than 29 percent black (the statewide average). A few other districts are more than 3-to-1 white.
The three Upstate districts remain relatively unchanged, although Jeff Duncan’s Third District drops Aiken and North Augusta, and Mulvaney’s Fifth District loses Darlington and Marlboro counties.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina House also released its proposal to realign seats in its own chamber. Among the changes:
– Democratic-held seats would be shifted out of the Pee Dee region, as well as Hampton County. One Republican seat would be combined in the Laurens-Clinton-Fountain Inn area, and two more would merge near Easley.
– Three of the four new seats would be near the coast in Beaufort, Berkeley, and Horry counties. The last seat would be in the growing Charlotte suburbs of York County.
Democrats have said they have only a few issues with the new maps, but still want some changes.
House leaders expect to bring the proposal before the full body for debate in mid-June. The Senate is working on its own separate plan for the congressional seats, as well as senators’ personal districts. The two houses will have to agree on a final version before submitting it to the governor for approval.
Because South Carolina is covered by the federal Voting Rights Act, any changes would also have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Since the Voting Rights Act was put into place in the mid-1960’s, no redistricting plan has successfully gone through the process without a lawsuit.