The South Carolina General Assembly is about to vote on new state Senate and House districts and national Congressional districts that will shape elections in our state for the next ten years.
Although attendance at statewide public hearings has been sparse, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina has been monitoring and testifying at all these hearings.
With the help of an experienced map drawer, an expert advisory group, and a team of mathematicians to assist in evaluating maps, the League has proposed our own maps based on objective criteria that respect communities of interest, county and municipal boundaries, and minority interests without regard to incumbents’ residences.
With the exception of the state Senate’s proposed map of Senate districts, which the League deems to be fairly drawn, the maps drawn by state legislators for our state’s 124 House districts and our seven Congressional districts are gerrymandered to protect incumbents of both parties and to advantage the current political party in power.
Although a vote on these maps is likely to occur as early as Dec. 6, it is still not too late to contact your state elected officials and urge them to amend their proposals so that voters’ voices will not be silenced.
When subjected to mathematical analysis by impartial experts, the map initially proposed for the House districts is deemed to be “extremely gerrymandered.”
When a billion alternative maps were computer-generated, only 130 were found to be more extreme in geometric partisan bias than the plan initially proposed.
The current Judiciary Committee version is even worse, with ten fewer potentially competitive districts than in the nonpartisan League plan.
This means that more than 410,000 state residents will have no voice in the selection of their representatives as the result is pre-determined by legislators.
What this means locally here in the southern-most portion of South Carolina is that when District 123 is expanded to reflect proportional population, Hilton Head Precinct 1B—a largely minority district-- will be split and the community of Levy, 20 miles away in Jasper County, will be added to the district rather than keeping 1B intact and adding adjacent Moss Creek, which already aligns itself with Hilton Head Island.
On the national level, our state legislators’ proposed Congressional maps eliminate the only naturally competitive district in the state in their reallocation of voters in Congressional District 1.
Whereas coastal population growth necessitates changes in boundaries, voters’ voices in the current First Congressional District proposal are diluted by subdividing Charleston and related communities. North Charleston voters, for example, are grouped in Congressional District 6 with some Columbia voters, with whom they have few common interests.
It would make more sense - as the League’s proposed map recommends - to keep Charleston whole and make Beaufort County a part of a realigned District 2 which includes Jasper County, with which Beaufort County shares regional economic interests. This alignment would restore Congressional District 1’s competitiveness.
To see what fairer House and Congressional maps would look like, go to the League of Women Voters’ website at www.lwvsc.org.
If the legislators’ proposed rendering of Congressional maps is approved, voters’ choices in the next national election for South Carolina’s seats in Congress will be immaterial as our legislators will have already determined the outcome in every district in the state.
When maps are drawn to reflect legislators’ interests, the democratic principle of “one man, one vote” no longer exists.
South Carolina voters deserve better.
We have one last chance to contact our state legislators to urge reconsideration of boundaries so that voters’ interests prevail.
Nancy L. Williams is president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.