Supreme Court to consider if GOP lawmakers racially gerrymandered South Carolina district

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The Supreme Court will consider whether the South Carolina legislature racially gerrymandered the congressional seat currently held by Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican.

The case will be closely watched, given the Republicans’ thin current majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mace was elected to her second term in 2022 with 56.4 percent of the popular vote, beating Democrat Annie Andrews who garnered 42.5 percent of the vote. In 2020, she narrowly defeated incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham by a margin of 50.6 to 49.3 percent, according to Ballotpedia.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state’s delegation to the U.S. House by 6 to 1. Mace’s district covers the Atlantic shoreline including Charleston and Hilton Head.

“I hope the court does what’s best for the people of South Carolina’s coast,” Mace told The Washington Examiner after the Supreme Court made its ruling.

The decision to take the case came in an unsigned order May 15 in which the court noted it had “probable jurisdiction” to hear Alexander v. South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, court file 22-807, an appeal against a ruling of the U.S. District Court in South Carolina. No justices dissented from the ruling. The Supreme Court did not explain why it decided to hear the case.

In January, after an eight-day trial, a three-member panel of the district court ordered that a new map be drawn for South Carolina’s 1st congressional district, finding that it violated the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it had been calculated to water down the power of black voters.

All members of the panel were appointed by Democrats. Two of the judges, Mary Geiger Lewis, and Richard Gergel, were appointed by former President Barack Obama. The other judge, Toby Heytens, was appointed by President Joe Biden.

The appeal was filed by South Carolina Republicans, among them Thomas Alexander, president of the South Carolina Senate, and G. Murrell Smith Jr., speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Alexander and Smith said in their brief (pdf) filed Feb. 17 that the panel failed to accept the usual legal presumption that the legislature acted in good faith when carrying out redistricting.

In striking down “an isolated portion” of the congressional district “as a racial gerrymander,” the panel “abandoned all pretext of extraordinary caution in this case.”

“The result is a thinly reasoned order that presumes bad faith and is “riddled with legal mistakes,” the brief stated.

The South Carolina NAACP and voter Taiwan Scott offered a statement that was provided by their attorneys at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion that the federal panel did in ruling correctly that our state’s 2022 enacted congressional map was discriminatorily drawn,” they told The Epoch Times.

“For too long, our state’s electoral process has silenced us and severely weakened the ability of our communities to be fully and fairly represented and accounted for. South Carolina’s congressional map is the latest instance in our state’s long, painful history of racial discrimination that must be remedied.

“As the case moves to oral argument, we implore the court to uphold the panel’s decision and protect Black South Carolina voters from this egregious form of discrimination,” they said.

The Epoch Times reached out for comment to Alexander’s attorney, John Matthew Gore of Jones Day, but had not received a reply as of press time.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared May 15, 2023, in The Epoch Times.

Photo: Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.)