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Supreme Court to review South Carolina racial gerrymandering claim

A lower court found that a congressional district held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace was drawn to dilute the power of Black voters.
Rep. Nancy Mace speaks during a House committee hearing at the Capitol
The Supreme Court could review the congressional district represented by Nancy Mace, R-S.C., pictured at a House committee hearing in April.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP file

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a bid by South Carolina Republicans to restore a congressional district that a lower court ruled was racially gerrymandered.

Republicans led by South Carolina Senate President Thomas Alexander are contesting a January ruling that said one of the state's seven newly drawn districts was configured to dilute the power of Black voters.

The district, which covers Charleston County, including the city of Charleston, is represented by Nancy Mace, a Republican.

After the 2020 census, Republicans redrew the boundaries to strengthen Republican control of what had become a competitive district.

Democrat Joe Cunningham won it in 2018 and narrowly lost to Mace in 2020. The new map was used in the 2022 midterm elections, in which Mace won by a wider margin than she had two years previously.

Lawyers for the Republican legislators said in court papers that the three-judge panel should have operated on the presumption that the Legislature was acting in good faith. They also said there were obvious political reasons legislators wanted to move predominantly Democratic voters out of the district to cement a Republican majority.

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, alleged that Republicans targeted Black voters, moving almost 30,000 of them from the district into another one.

"That predominant reliance on race is impermissible even if mapmakers used race as a proxy for politics," lawyers wrote in court papers. They argue that the new map violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The Supreme Court is weighing a separate case concerning racial gerrymandering in the South, this time over Republican-drawn congressional districts in Alabama. The case could lead to a ruling that further weakens the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Leah Aden, a lawyer with the group, said Monday that the district was a "blatant example of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering and intentional vote dilution."

Mace said last week that she doesn’t “know anything about” the battle over her district, except that it makes her job difficult because there is uncertainty over whom she will be representing.

"I will serve whomever the courts or the state decides we’re serving,” she said.