Nonpartisan redistricting panel sought by some Aiken County residents

·2 min read

Sep. 21—GRANITEVILLE — A S.C. House committee working on updated legislative and congressional boundaries was told several times Monday night that what is truly needed for equitable redistricting is an independent, impartial commission.

Aiken County residents who testified before the House Redistricting Ad Hoc Committee at Aiken Technical College said removing politics from the process would benefit all involved and would, ultimately, produce fairer districts.

In order "for democracy to flourish," said Karin Sisk, an active member of the League of Women Voters, "lines must be drawn by people, not by candidates." Ann Willbrand, the second vice chair of the Aiken County Democratic Party, made a similar request: "I would like to see all districts, from municipal to congressional, drawn by a nonpartisan commission, as proposed in Senate 750 and House 4229, to provide the most fair representation for everyone."

Redistricting in the Palmetto State — a high-stakes decennial affair — intimately involves sitting lawmakers, raising the specter of stacked decks and other wheeling and dealing.

"S.C. House and Senate have different guidelines for redistricting, with the only caveat that incumbents win," Michele Springsteen told the committee. "We need major reform for this redistricting cycle."

Both the House and Senate will use 2020 Census data to craft updated lines for seven congressional districts and many more state-level districts. The hearing Monday was one of several initial steps in the process. The Senate hosted a similar input session in the same college auditorium in mid-August.

Rep. Wallace Jordan Jr., who chairs the House ad hoc committee, on Monday likened the public hearings to key ingredients in a recipe.

"As the House undertakes the process of redrawing district lines, public input is indispensable to ensuring that our districts best represent the people of South Carolina," the Florence Republican said. "The fundamental goal of this committee and the House is to adopt a plan that assures South Carolina's legislative districts provide for equal voting rights, traditionally referred to as the one-person-one-vote principle."

Five Republicans and three Democrats sit on the ad hoc committee.

Between 2010 and 2020, South Carolina gained some 490,000 people, a growth of nearly 11%.

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