The South Carolina state Senate is now trying again with a congressional redistricting plan after the House put a new seventh congressional seat back in the Pee Dee region Tuesday. Both chambers returned to session for a day to vote on the new districts.
The House plan passed along party lines 68-39. It closely mirrors a previous House plan passed in June. The plan derailed later that month, however, after Democrats allied with 11 Republicans instead voted to put the new district in the Lowcounty, anchored by Beaufort and Berkeley counties.
A growth in population means South Carolina picks up a new seat in Congress for the 2012 election.
The new plan also keeps a 60-40 relationship between Greenville and Spartanburg counties in the 3rd Congressional District (currently held by Rep. Trey Gowdy) and brings Rep. Jim Clyburn’s 6th Congressional District deeper into Berkeley County and North Charleston.
Several Senate Republicans dropped their opposition to the House plan in order to keep redistricting from going to a panel of three judges, as required by law if the legislature is unable to draw a map. Many political observers believe the panel would draw a second Democratic-leaning district.
Rep. Jim Harrison led the committee that drew the original map, and met Senate leaders last week to draw a new version with a few changes. He said they do not want judges to draw the district lines, “I think we’ve got a responsibility to do it ourselves.”
However, Democrats opposed the plan, which would effectively create 6 Republican districts and 1 Democratic seat. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said a fair plan would draw a second minority-majority district, in which minorities would make up a majority of the population. “I take issue with the school of thought that says that (a seventh) seat ought be reserved for a Republican,” she said in a speech on the House floor Tuesday.
If the Senate does approve the proposal, it would go to the governor for her signature. Haley is expected to sign the plan. Because South Carolina is still covered under the federal Voting Rights Act, the final product would also have to be approved by the U. S. Justice Department.