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South Carolina congressional map deliberately hurt Black voters, judges rule

A poll worker cleans the table at a polling location during early voting in Sumter, South Carolina, U.S., October 9, 2020. REUTERS/Micah Green

South Carolina’s Republican-created congressional map deliberately split up Black neighborhoods in Charleston to diminish their voting power and must be redrawn, a three-judge federal panel ruled on Friday.

The Republican-controlled legislature adopted the map last year after the 2020 U.S. Census as part of the once-a-decade redistricting process that all states complete.

Friday’s decision focused on the state’s 1st congressional district, which has long been anchored in Charleston County.

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In 2018, Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat to win the district in nearly four decades in what was widely seen as an upset victory. In 2020, Republican Nancy Mace beat Cunningham by just over 1 percentage point.

In redrawing the district last year, Republicans moved more than 30,000 Black residents in Charleston to the neighboring majority-Black 6th district, the court said, in a “stark racial gerrymander”.

Mace coasted to re-election in November under the new lines, winning by 14 percentage points.

In a statement, the Republican speaker of the state House of Representatives, G. Murrell Smith, said he expects that lawmakers will appeal the decision.

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“I maintain that the House drew maps without racial bias and in the best interest of all the people of this state,” he said.

The judges – all three appointed by Democratic presidents – gave the state legislature until the end of March to submit a new map. No elections can take place in the 1st district until it has been redrawn, the panel said.

The lawsuit was brought by the state conference of the NAACP.

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