Redistricting in South Carolina

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Note: Redistricting takes place every 10 years after completion of the United States Census. The information here pertains to the 2010 redistricting process.

Redistricting in South Carolina
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Redistricting on PolicypediaState legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 CensusState-by-state redistricting procedures
This page is about redistricting in South Carolina.

In 2010, South Carolina received one additional seat in the Congressional reapportionment. The Palmetto State drew a seventh district during the redistricting process.

The legislature held a special session from June 15-30 to conduct redistricting. Governor Haley signed the Congressional map on August 1, 2011.


In South Carolina, the Legislature is responsible for re-drawing Congressional and state legislative district boundaries. The governor has veto-authority over the plans.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will set criteria for new zones.[1]

The Senate agreed to a district variance of 5 percent.[2]

Senate redistricting guidelines include six additional categories beyond federal requirements. Those six are:

  1. Communities of Interest
  2. Constituent Consistency
  3. Not Dividing County Boundaries
  4. Not Dividing Municipal Boundaries
  5. Voting Precinct Boundaries
  6. District compactness

House Democrats hired Matthew Richardson to serve as legal representation in any redistricting dispute.[3]


2011 Senate subcommittee

Rep. Bakari Sellers (D) said the Democratic Party must be "reflective of all shades of people," in reference to the racial breakdown of legislators.[4]

The Judiciary committee of the Senate created a 7-member subcommittee on redistricting. Members are:[5]

Republican PartyRepublicans (4)

Democratic PartyDemocrats (3)

Senator McConnell said he planned to have the redistricting process completed before June 2011.[6] Additionally, he was hopeful that a plan could be finalized without any court involvement this time around. "Many observers take for granted a cynical and partisan redistricting process. I don't believe it needs to be that way," McConnell said.[7]

Special session

A spokesperson for Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Jr. (R) said the South Carolina General Assembly would likely return in August to complete the redistricting process. The 2011 legislative session was slated to end on June 3.[8]

Census results

The 2010 census indicated South Carolina's population grew by 15.3 percent to 4.6 million. That was good for the 10th-fastest growing state in the decade.[9] This resulted in the state receiving an additional House seat, increasing the state's representation from 6 to 7.[10]

In 2011, Horry County and the upstate displayed population increases and were candidates to receive an extra seat. "There'll be some wrangling over who in the growth areas warrants getting these extra seats," said state Senator Luke Rankin (R).[11] It looked like Horry County might receive not just an additional Congressional district, but also another state house seat.[12]

Figure 1: This map shows the South Carolina Congressional Districts after the 2000 census.

Based on the local census data, it was likely that Horry County was the front-runner to land the 7th Congressional District. "This is going to present significant challenges. There will be members who, ultimately, lose their district. Redistricting is the most raw, political thing that happens in the General Assembly," said House representative Alan Clemmons (R), chairman of the House subcommittee tasked with drawing new lines.[13]

Additionally, most of the State House and Senate districts that were majority-minority were under-populated from the ideal sizes of 37,301 and 100,551. "It gets more difficult to draw safe African-American districts. We saw this coming. It may make us all different politicians," said senator Darrell Jackson (D).[13]

Voting Rights Act

South Carolina is 1 of 16 states that in some capacity must obtain federal approval of its redistricting plans. The last two redistricting efforts both ended up in federal court. However, some South Carolinians were in favor of exempting the Palmetto State from requiring federal approval. Larry Kobrovsky -- who ran unsuccessfully for the 1st Congressional District against Timothy Scott -- said he planned to sue the federal government to have the Voting Rights Act repealed (at least as it pertains to South Carolina). Kobrovsky cited the fact that South Carolina had recently elected two new minority candidates to high ranking positions -- Nikki Haley as Governor, and Scott.[14]

Congressional Maps

Top Ten Ranking

According to a report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," South Carolina was home to one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking eighth on the list. Illinois ranked first.[15]

Figure 1a: This is the proposed Congressional map as introduced by the House Judiciary Committee on May 18, 2011.
Figure 1b: This is the proposed Congressional map as passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives on June 15, 2011.

The new district could have split the Greenville and Spartanburg counties.[1] Horry County representatives were pushing for the new district to be centered in their region.[11] However, the Voting Rights Act required that South Carolina districts receive federal approval. The Department of Justice might insist on a second majority-minority district being created, in addition to the one represented by Jim Clyburn.[1] One possibility proposed early on was that Beaufort County would join the 1st Congressional District -- forming one long coastal district. At the time, Beaufort was represented by Joe Wilson and was part of a district that stretched up to Lexington in the middle of the state.[16][17]

Representative James Harrison (R), who chaired the House Judiciary Committee said all of the House districts would show substantial change, reflected by growth throughout the state.[18] Horry, Charleston, Beaufort and York counties were pegged as the early sites of population growth in the state.[19]

Scott Huffmon, political scientist at Winthrop University, said "This is an absolutely partisan, gerrymandering free-for-all."[19]

Proposed maps

In May 2011, the Senate and House committees accepted citizen-generated maps. See figures 3-8 below for some of those maps, which were submitted by the following:

  • ACLU
  • A citizen, "Kuhn"
  • U.S. Representative Jim Clyburn
  • U.S. Representatives Mick Mulvaney and Joe Wilson

On May 18, 2011, the House released its draft map.[20] The proposed map (Figure 1) anchored the new 7th Congressional District in Horry County. Additionally, it split Greenville County between the 3rd and 4th Congressional districts.[21] The map would split Beaufort County at the Whale Branch river, giving the coastal county two Congressional representatives. However, Senator Tom Davis -- who represented the region -- said he would fight a map that split the county. "Under no circumstances do I think it's in our county's best interest to be split like that. Anything that serves to splinter our county into different regions, I'm going to oppose," he said.[22] Meanwhile, Joe Wilson would pick up all of Aiken County, which was split between himself and Jeff Duncan.[23]

House vs. Senate

On June 6, 2011, the House Judiciary Committee passed a plan to redraw the congressional districts. The plan would add the newly created 7th District along the northeastern part of the state in Horry and Georgetown counties.[24] That map was passed by the full House on June 15, 2011.

On June 20, 2011, the South Carolina State Senate held a public input forum to gather reaction from citizens. Residents from throughout the state argued for their location as the central point of a new district. In particular, some residents from Pee Dee took a chartered bus to Columbia for the meeting.[25]

However, the Senate was split over how the final map should look, which could ultimately mean the map would be drawn by a panel of three federal judges. On June 23, 2011, a map was passed out of committee after a 19-19 tied vote was broken by Lt. Governor Ken Ard (R). The plan advanced to the floor for debate. It would split parts of Spartanburg County between the 4th and 5th Congressional Districts. The new 7th District would be centered in Horry County.[26]

But on June 29, 2011, the Senate surprised onlookers by passing a map that placed the new 7th District in the Lowcountry -- centered around Beaufort County. The vote was 22-20. Senate leadership called the map a "setback" because it did not line up with the House plan.[27]

The Senate map then had to be reconciled with the House map.[28] Negotiations would occur and then the legislature reconvened on July 26, 2011 to vote again.[29]

Maps defended

In advance of the redistricting session on July 26, 2011, Republican Senators Glenn McConnell and Larry Grooms -- essentially the designated spokespersons for the competing maps -- took to the media outlets to defend their maps. McConnell recommended passage of the map that centered the new 7th Congressional District in the "Pee Dee" region. Grooms meanwhile, backed the plan to construct the 7th Congressional District around Beaufort County. Both senators published editorials outlining their stance. Coincidentally -- or perhaps ironically -- both legislators described their plan as the "common sense" map.[30]

Congressional maps approved

On July 26, the South Carolina Legislature reached a compromise on the state's Congressional redistricting plan. After weeks of infighting, legislative Republicans in both chambers agreed on a plan for the US House District 7. Per the House plan, the district was centered on the Pee Dee region, but would now include all of Georgetown county. The previous version of the plan split the county between Districts 6 and 7. The new District 7 was expected to favor Republicans. Former holdouts on the House plan expressed reservations about supporting the bill. Sen. Tom Davis (R) argued that adopting the House plan was better than leaving the process to the courts. He noted, "I would opt for the devil I know rather than the devil I don't know."[31] The redistricting bill passed 75-33 in the House and 24-16 in the Senate.[32]

On August 1, 2011, Governor Nikki Haley (R) signed the Congressional map. The new district was expected to be a "lock" for a GOP candidate.[33]

Protest petition

In August 2011, African-American leaders in the Greenville area launched a protest to get petition signatures that objected to the splitting of Greenville County. About 55,000 Greenville County residents were moved to the 3rd Congressional District in the new map. The petition leaders said they might consider legal action pending the DOJ decision on preclearance of the map.[34]

Federal approval of map

On October 31, 2011, the Department of Justice approved the new Congressional map. Meanwhile, South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Dick Harpootlian said a lawsuit would be filed within two weeks.[35]

Legislative Maps

Figure 2: This map displays the proposed State House districts as introduced by the House Redistricting subcommittee on May 4, 2011.

Residents in Fort Mill and Tega Cay requested that their cities be drawn into combined state legislative districts. Several local residents drafted a petition -- which had the support of Tega Cay and Fort Mill councils. One district involved was that of Ralph W. Norman (R), who said Fort Mill "controls this seat as it is now."[36]

Senator Brad Hutto (D), who served on the redistricting subcommittee, said it was important to respect community ties. "To the extent we are able, I want to avoid voter confusion by keeping precinct lines as unchanged as possible. Neighborhoods and municipalities must be kept as whole as possible. There is no reason to divide a small town like Springfield or small counties like Saluda, which has three different Senate districts," Hutto said.[37]

Impact on White Democrats

Historically, South Carolina had been controlled by White Democrats. Even as recently as 50 years ago, all 124 House and all 46 Senate members were White Democrats. There were 10 White Democrats in the Senate and 19 White Democrats in the House. Heading into 2011 redistricting, there was speculation that even more White Democrats would be drawn out of districts.[4]

Democrats raised $50,000 to use for drawing maps that would be pro-Democratic -- despite complete Republican control over the process.[4] Some African-American representatives -- like Bakari Sellers (D) and Leon Howard (D) -- had hinted at being willing to give up some of their district constituents in order to increase the likelihood of a White Democrat being elected in another district.[4] "When you make a rule that protects one group of legislators, even if it’s for a good reason, it will be at the expense of another group of legislators. In South Carolina, that’s white Democrats," said representative Ted Vick (D).[4]

This was contrary to the redistricting process of the 1990s, when the Legislative Black Caucus made deals with White House Republicans.[4] That deal helped Republicans take control of the House in 1994.[4]

One estimate was that the number of White Democrats in the state house would be cut in half.[38]


Representative Thad Viers (R) discusses problems with gerrymandering.

Four districts in the Rock Hill area were significantly over the ideal population size. Districts 45, 46, 47 and 48 required alteration to accommodate population growth.[39]

House proposal

On May 20, 2011, the House released an initial version of the new maps. Under the proposal, District 10 -- which had been represented by House Ways and Means Chair Dan Cooper since 1990 -- would be drawn into the 6th District, represented by Brian White (R). In April 2011, Cooper resigned from his seat, to be effective on June 29, 2011. He cited a desire to spend more time with his family.[40] Another alteration to the lower chamber's map would be an additional district in the Carolina Forest area of Horry County. District 56 would be largely shaped out of the existing District 105, in response to population growth in Horry.[41]

A plan for redrawing the 124 House districts was passed by the House Judiciary Committee on June 6, 2011.[24]

Senate map

A plan to redraw the state's 46 Senate districts had nine majority-minority districts -- which was one fewer than the previous maps had. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved a new map on June 9, 2011. While the ACLU objected to the reduction of majority-minority districts, Senator Glenn McConnell said the map met Voting Rights Act standards. "The problem is there's a whole chunk of population up there that's got to go somewhere. You cannot make race the primary and sole factor," he said.[42] One item not included in the committee-passed map was the combination of districts for Democratic senators Vincent Sheheen and Creighton Coleman. The South Carolina Republican Party proposed merging the two districts which could have conceivably forced Sheheen -- who lost by a slim margin in the race for governor to Nikki Haley in November 2010.[43]

The ACLU proposal would have created 11 majority-minority senate districts. "We think the Senate's plan is potentially retrogressive; it eliminates one majority-minority district while ours adds one. Our plan is more compact and more in line with the Voting Rights Act. It also reflects the demographic reality in South Carolina better," said ACLU state director Victoria Middleton.[44]

Maps approved

On June 15, 2011 the Senate approved its new maps by a unanimous 33-0 vote with little debate.[45] The same day, House representatives also approved their redistricting plan. The Democratic Party implied it intended to sue over the new maps.[46]


In September 2011, the Department of Justice sent questions to the South Carolina State Senate specifically seeking information about District 17. The American Civil Liberties Union had wanted that district to be a majority-minority seat but Republicans rejected that argument. At the time, District 17 was represented by Creighton Coleman (D).[47] The Department of Justice informed the South Carolina State Senate in November 2011 that it would not oppose the new Senate map.[48]

Citizen Maps

 South Carolina Citizen Proposed Congressional and State Legislative Redistricting Maps 

Legal issues

Congressional map lawsuit

On November 11, 2011, six voters in Florence, Sumter, Georgetown, Berkeley, Darlington and Charleston counties filed suit against the new U.S. House map, calling the districts "voting apartheid."[49] The suit requested that a three-judge panel dismiss the map and mandate lawmakers to create a new version of the seven Congressional districts. South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian filed the suit on behalf of the six voters.[50]

Judge recuses himself

In December 2011, the attorney representing Republican lawmakers in the lawsuit over the new South Carolina congressional map filed paperwork requesting that the federal judge be removed from the case.[51] Billy Wilkins, in his complaint, alleged that judge Mark Gergel represented the plaintiffs in a similar lawsuit over redistricting last decade. Yesterday, Gergel recused himself from the case, in part because of his work for former Governor of South Carolina Jim Hodges (D). Gergel was replaced by Judge Patrick Duffy.[52]

March hearing

A panel of federal judges upheld South Carolina's new congressional and state legislative districts on March 9, 2012, dismissed the lawsuit that had alleged the lines were drawn to weaken African-American voters in the state.[53][54]

On March 19, 2012, six voters appealed that ruling up to the U.S. Supreme Court.[55]

Upheld by Supreme Court

On October 1, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the lines were fair and nondiscriminatory.[56]

Public hearings

The subcommittee on redistricting held 10 public hearings on redistricting. The dates and times were:[57]

  • March 23, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in Orangeburg
  • March 24, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter
  • March 28, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Technical College of the Low Country in Beaufort
  • March 29, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Aiken Technical College in Aiken
  • March 30, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at York Technical College in Rock Hill
  • March 31, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Greenville County Council Chambers in Greenville
  • April 4, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach
  • April 5, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at 105 Gressette Senate Office Building in Columbia
  • April 6, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence
  • April 7, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Trident Technical College in Charleston

Public comments at meetings

As legislators traveled across the state to gather reactions from citizens on redistricting, many different themes were evident. Some of the messages signaled by residents were:

  • Do not split counties. Residents in Union County are split into three separate Senate districts. Residents urged the committee to combine those into one district. Lancaster County was split into two districts, as residents supported one district as well. York County was also split into two senate districts.[58] "We feel very strongly that it is to our benefit the citizens of the county to retain our own representative," said Saluda County resident Brenda Bedenbaugh.[59] Additionally, Colleton County was split into three Senate districts but none of them lived in Colleton County.[60]
  • Safe districts. Some residents encouraged the legislators to avoid protecting incumbents with uncompetitive districts. "I'm against so-called safe districts," said Dewitt Williams at the Charleston public hearing.[60]
  • 4th Congressional District. Residents in Greenville and Sparanburg counties expressed a desire to avoid being split, although population growth in those areas would likely cause a separation to occur.[61]
  • 7th Congressional District. Across the state, residents made their plea for being the location of the new 7th Congressional seat. Among the areas of the state that pushed for the new seat were Florence[62] and Horry/Georgetown counties.[63]

Public maps

The subcommittees on redistricting invited public submissions of possible maps from citizens. The original deadline for these maps was May 2, 2011, but legislators extended that until May 9. Greenville community members had implied that the public process was too short.[64]


Public hearings were held at the end of March 2011 and beginning of April 2011. During the week of April 11, the redistricting subcommittee began drawing new districts.[65] After maps are generated, more public hearings will be held to seek feedback.

The Legislature voted 109-0 on May 5, 2011 to return on June 14, 2011 for a special session on redistricting. The session concluded on July 1.[66]


South Carolina legislators have been sued the last two times the state took up redistricting.[18] The past three redistricting processes have been marred in controversy, as courts ultimately created the maps following legal challenges.[67]

Deviation from "Ideal Districts"

2000 Population Deviation[68]
Office Percentage
Congressional Districts 0.00%
State House Districts 4.99%
State Senate Districts 9.87%
Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.

Constitutional explanation

The South Carolina Constitution provides authority to the General Assembly for redistricting in Section 3 of Article III.

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Greenville News, "Redistricting may split Greenville, Spartanburg in 4th District shuffle," January 2, 2011
  2. The Times and Democrat, "Sellers, Hutto get early say in redistricting," May 15, 2011
  3. The State, "Democrats plan legal fight over redistricting," April 26, 2011
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 The State, "Endangered species: White S.C. Democrats," February 6, 2011
  5. South Carolina Senate Redistricting Committee Members
  6. WLTX "Senate gearing up for redistricting process," March 1, 2011
  7. The State, "SC redistricting process starts," March 2, 2011
  8. 'WSAV "Reapportionment battle likely to extend into August," March 14, 2011
  9. WLTX "Want a Say in South Carolina's Redistricting," March 24, 2011
  10. Charleston Post and Courier, "Draw in more competition," December 26, 2010
  11. 11.0 11.1 Carolina Live, "Budget cuts, redistricting top 2011's state agenda," January 3, 2011
  12. Myrtle Beach Sun News, "S.C. lawmakers ear up for grueling session," January 9, 2011
  13. 13.0 13.1 The State, "Horry favored to land 7th Congressional District," March 24, 2011
  14. Myrtle Beach Sun News, "Justice is blind; are we?" January 18, 2011
  15. Washington Post, "The Fix," "Redistricting battles hit a fever pitch," June 3, 2011
  16. Charleston City Paper, "Scott losing redistricting lottery," April 8, 2011
  17. WISTV "What will SC's new congressional district look like?" April 11, 2011
  18. 18.0 18.1 Free Times, "Legislative bloodbath," January 12, 2011
  19. 19.0 19.1 Go Upstate, "SC will get a seventh congressional district, but no one's sure where the boundaries will fall," February 11, 2011
  20. The State, "Horry to anchor new congressional district," May 18, 2011
  21. Myrtle Beach Sun News, "Plan has Horry County anchoring new SC House seat," May 19, 2011
  22. Island Packet, "New congressional districts could split Beaufort County," May 21, 2011
  23. Aiken Standard, "Redistricting may leave Duncan out," May 22, 2011 (dead link)
  24. 24.0 24.1 Cheraw Chronicle, "S.C. House panel OKs new district lines," June 8, 2011
  25. Newstimes, "Public testifies on US House district line plans," June 20, 2011
  26. The State, "Congressional redistricting debate splinters Senate," June 24, 2011
  27. The State, "Senate passes surprise plan," June 29, 2011
  28. Go Upstate, "Senate congressional redistricting plan puts new district in the Lowcountry," June 29, 2011
  29. Island Packet, "S.C. Senate OKs new congressional districted anchored in Beaufort County," June 29, 2011
  30. Daniel Island News, "Two perspectives on Redistricting," July 20, 2011
  31. The Augusta Chronicle, "Officials OK S.C. redistricting plan," July 26, 2011
  32. Georgetown Times, "House and Senate reach compromise on redistricting; Georgetown in 7th District," July 27, 2011
  33. Augusta Chronicle, "New U.S. House district called a lock for GOP," August 2, 2011
  34. Greenvile News, "Petition drive seeks to stop new congressional lines," August 20, 2011
  35. Midlands Connect, "SC's congressional map approved, lawsuit expected," October 31, 2011
  36. Fort Mill Times Herald, "Civic leaders want consolidated district for Fort Mill and Tega Cay," January 30, 2011
  37. Times and Democrat, "Hutto:Remapping should respect community ties," March 1, 2011
  38. Statehouse Report, "Legislators, urban areas get ready to carve up the state," March 4, 2011
  39. The Herald, "House panel hears input on districts," April 7, 2011
  40. Independent Mail, "Redistricting proposals for South Carolina posted online," May 20, 2011
  41. WMBF "Proposal calls for new Carolina Forest district in SC House," May 19, 2011
  42. The Herald, "Plan for 1 new minority SC Senate district fails," June 9, 2011
  43. Free Times, "S.C. GOP Redistricting Plan Aims to Squeeze out Sheheen, Other Dems," June 7, 2011
  44. WIS TV "SC senators approve election district lines," June 8, 2011
  45. The State, "SC Senate OKs new lines, tackles Congressional lines next," June 15, 2011
  46. The State, "House approves redistricting plans, Dems plan to sue," June 15, 2011
  47. Midlands Connect, "Federal officials question SC Senate redistricting," September 27, 2011
  48. The Republic, "US Dept of Justice says it won't oppose redrawing of SC state Senate district lines," November 15, 2011
  49. The Republic, "APNewsBreak: Lawsuit filed challenging US House district lines in South Carolina," November 11, 2011
  50. SC Now, "Redistricting lawsuit draws reaction from lawmakers," November 14, 2011
  51. The Republic, "Attorney files court papers seeking to have federal judge removed from SC redistricting case," December 10, 2011
  52. The State, "US judge steps aside in SC's US House line case," December 15, 2011
  53. WLTX "Federal Judges Uphold South Carolina's New District Lines," March 9, 2012
  54. WMBF "Hembree responds to dismissal of SC redistricting lawsuit," March 12, 2012
  55. Carolina Live, "APNewsBreak: 6 voters appeal SC redistricting plan," March 19, 2012
  56. WMBF, "US Supreme Court upholds SC redistricting lines," October 1, 2012
  57. Tentative Redistricting Hearing Schedule
  58. Rock Hill Herald, "Public offers redistricting requests for York Co." March 31, 2011
  59. Midlands Connect, "Lawmakers seek public in put on redistricting plans," March 30, 2011
  60. 60.0 60.1 Charleston Post and Courier, "Public airs concerns on remap: Senate redistricting panel listens to leaders, residents," April 8, 2011
  61. Go Upstate, "Panel mulls state redistricting plans," April 1, 2011
  62. WMBF News, "Pee Dee makes final plea for 7th District," April 6, 2011
  63. Myrtle Beach Sun News, "District lines discussed by Horry, Georgetown county residents at hearing," April 5, 2011
  64. Greenville News, "Public get more time to submit redistricting plans," May 3, 2011
  65. Greenfield Reporter, "After 10 hearings statewide, SC Senate panel to begin drawing congressional district lines," April 8, 2011
  66. Beaumont Enterprise, "SC House to return in mid-June for redistricting," May 5, 2011
  67. News Channel 7 "S.C. redistricting work begins," March 2, 2011
  68. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Redistricting 2000 Population Deviation Table”," accessed February 1, 2011