Judges Decide Election Can't Wait for Supreme Court

South Carolina will use congressional map already found to be unconstitutional
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 28, 2024 6:30 PM CDT
Judges Decide Election Can't Wait for Supreme Court
Voters fill out their ballots at a polling place in February 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

A federal court on Thursday ruled that this year's congressional elections in South Carolina will be held under a map that it had already deemed unconstitutional and discriminatory against Black voters, with time running out ahead of voting deadlines and a lack of a decision on the case by the US Supreme Court. In an order, the AP reports, a panel of three federal judges from South Carolina wrote that "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."

South Carolina's primary elections are June 11, and early voting starts May 28. The deadline for overseas absentee ballots is April 27, ahead of which the judges wrote that it's "plainly impractical" to make changes to the maps. The case hinges on the state's 1st Congressional District, currently held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, per the AP. Last year, the same three-judge panel ordered South Carolina to redraw the district, which runs from Charleston to Hilton Head Island, after finding that the state used race as a proxy for partisan affiliation in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.

When Mace first won election in 2020, she edged Rep. Joe Cunningham—who two years earlier had been the first Democrat to flip a House seat in South Carolina in 30 years—by 1%, less than 5,400 votes. In 2022, following redistricting, Mace won reelection by 14%. After South Carolina's GOP-run legislature redrew the district, civil rights groups sued, saying lawmakers had removed Black voters and made it a safer seat for Republicans. Last year, a three-judge panel—the same one that issued Thursday's order—concluded that the legislature "exiled" 30,000 Democratic-leaning Black voters from the 1st District to help Mace. The state appealed that ruling, and the Supreme Court heard arguments in October but has yet to issue a decision. The state and the civil rights groups had requested a decision by Jan. 1.

(More redistricting stories.)

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