Supreme Court Drags Feet So Long That South Carolina Will Hold 2024 Elections Under Gerrymandered Map

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 28: Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC)(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
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The Supreme Court’s over five months of inaction on a South Carolina redistricting case has forced a lower court to order that the state’s 2024 elections be conducted with a map that includes a district it found to be racially gerrymandered.

“Having found that Congressional District No. 1 constitutes an unconstitutional racial gerrymander, the Court fully recognizes that ‘it would be the unusual case in which a court would be justified in not taking appropriate action to insure that no further elections are conducted under an invalid plan,’” Obama appointee Judge Mary Geiger Lewis wrote, quoting a separate case. “But with the primary election procedures rapidly approaching, the appeal before the Supreme Court still pending, and no remedial plan in place, the ideal must bend to the practical.”

The Supreme Court heard oral argument on October 11, and has neither decided the case nor acted on Republican legislators’ emergency request to keep the map as is.

During oral arguments, the right-wing justices sounded solidly arrayed behind the Republican lawmakers, dismissing the plaintiffs’ case as resting on “circumstantial evidence.” 

The lawsuit centers on the district currently held by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC). After the 2020 census, the state had to address unequal population distribution in the districts. District one was too big, and district six too small. District six, represented by Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), is the only Democratic congressional district in South Carolina; Cook Political Report currently gives it a whopping D+19 lean.  

Rather than just moving some of the district one surplus to district six, legislators first added Republican-leaning areas from district six to overpopulated district one, only to then carve out significant numbers of Black voters until district one’s Black, voting-age population fell back to 17 percent — coincidentally, the level where the white Republican vote is enough to overcome it. 

The results changed accordingly. In 2020, Mace just squeaked by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D) with about one percentage point of the vote. Two years later, in the reconfigured district, she won by 14. 

This case has also served as a reminder of how bizarre redistricting litigation has become on the federal level thanks to the Roberts Court. Since the Supreme Court banned partisan redistricting cases from being heard in federal court, litigants are only left with racial gerrymandering claims — particularly farcical, as race and partisan lean are often linked. That reality has led to surreal scenes, as Republican South Carolina lawmakers openly admitted that they’d rigged the maps to maximize their vote share, to pick and choose voters by party until it became virtually impossible for them to lose the House seats. 

Read the order here:

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