Supreme Court Upholds Charleston Congressional District Amid Racial Redistricting Controversy

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Today the Supreme Court upheld a Republican-held South Carolina congressional district that includes Charleston, rejecting a challenge from civil rights groups who described the redistricting plan as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

In a 6-3 ruling divided along conservative-liberal lines, the justices concluded that the challengers failed to prove the state legislature was motivated by race when it moved thousands of Black voters out of the state’s 1st Congressional District. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, suggested that the legislature aimed to make the seat safer for Republicans, which does not violate the Constitution.

Previously, the Charleston-area district, now held by GOP Rep. Nancy Mace, had been a swing seat, changing parties in 2018 and 2020. However, following the 2020 census, the Republican-controlled state legislature redrew the district lines, moving many Black voters into the district long held by Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Subsequently, the NAACP challenged this new map, arguing that the legislature used race as a proxy for partisan affiliation, violating the 14th and 15th Amendments. Although a lower court initially sided with the NAACP, it allowed the state to use the challenged map in the 2024 elections while the Supreme Court reviewed the issue.

Despite these challenges, the Supreme Court found that partisan politics and a population boom in coastal areas, rather than racial motivations, drove the redistricting.

Notably, Rep. Nancy Mace first won her seat in 2020, narrowly defeating Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Cunningham by less than 5,400 votes, or 1%. After the redistricting, Mace won reelection in 2022 by a 14% margin. She is also one of eight Republicans who voted in October to oust Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as House speaker.

In contrast, this case differs from a similar one in Alabama, where the court ruled last year that Republican lawmakers diluted Black voters’ political power by creating only one district with a majority Black population. Consequently, that decision resulted in a new map with a second district where Democratic-leaning Black voters form a significant portion of the electorate.

In South Carolina, a redrawn district would not have included as many Black voters. However, combining them with a significant number of Democratic-leaning white voters could have made the district more competitive for Democrats.

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