While the national debt limit debate continues, another group of lawmakers is working close to a federal deadline.
The South Carolina Legislature will reconvene Tuesday to try and agree how to redraw the state’s congressional districts. A population surge in the recent U.S. Census has resulted in a new 7th Congressional District. As expected, House and Senate lawmakers have not reached an easy consensus on where that district should be located.
The original House redistricting plan based the 7th District in Horry County and the Pee Dee region. Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Richland) helped draw that map. He seemed confident the House and “key senators” in leadership would produce a plan Tuesday that could pass quickly and will resemble the original House plan.
But some members of the Senate, aided by strategic spoiler Democrat votes, blocked the House plan in June and passed a different version at the end of the recent extended session. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and Sem. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) passed a plan to put the new district in the Beaufort and Lowcountry area.
“What Larry Grooms, Danny Verdin, Greg Ryberg, Shane Massey, Greg Gregory, myself and a few other Republicans when we saw the plan that was created by the House, which was quite frankly a very political plan. It’s no secret that… (Rep.) Alan Clemmons (R-Horry) was the subcommittee chairman for that particular committee that drew the plan. (He) drew a plan, quite frankly, so that he could run for it, ” Davis charged.
These senators are guilty of the same, says Harrison.
“The same could be said for the Senate plan, even though Senator Grooms and Senator Davis both say they are not interested in running for Congress. Those allegations have been made on both sides. We believe in the House that the Pee Dee is a homogeneous part of the state that has much more commonality of interests than a district that stretches from Berkeley County, Dorchester County, Colleton County to Beaufort County,” Harrison says.
Harrison says a challenge was consolidating eight districts into four districts, accomodating areas that had the most growth.
Davis says his group wants to stick with a map drawn by national Republican/consultant demographer John Morgan, who drew the Senate plan. Davis said he thinks it will withstand a challenge by the U.S. Justice Department. The state’s history of marginalizing the black population into voting minorities has resulted in the federal courts taking over final congressional district mapping since 1980.
“When we in the Senate saw that (House plan), we said, ‘No, we want to have a plan that is based on solid demographic data, we don’t want there to be political gerrymandering, we want to have something that is defensible.” Davis said, “(The Senate plan) was actually recommended by legal experts that had been hired by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee.”
“We were all poised to adopt it and move forward, when the subcommittee held a meeting and about 200 people from the Myrtle Beach region came to the meeting and the demanded that the map be redrawn,” Davis said, “And they drew one very quickly that evening and passed it and sent it to the full Senate.”
The bill stopped there when Davis and others challenged party leadership and passed another plan with help from Democrats, who surprised GOP leadership by unanimously voting for the Morgan version.
Leading up to Tuesday, however, Harrison says he worked with Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell to get the votes to return to a bill close to the House version. That includes trying to keep Greenville and Spartanburg Counties connected in a district.
Davis and Harrison do agree that, whatever version is adopted, everything will be resolved in a “matter of hours” on Tuesday afternoon.