South Carolina's use of congressional maps is unconstitutional

A federal court ruled on Thursday that the time to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina had run out, and said the state could use its current map this year, despite previously ruling that the map was unconstitutional.

Last year the three-judge panel, South Carolina's Republican-led legislature, white GOP incumbent Rep. It decided to “drive out” 30,000 black voters from the district to make it safe for Nancy Mays.

South Carolina appealed, and both sides asked the Supreme Court to expedite the case to ensure a final ruling before the election season. Justices heard arguments in October, but have yet to rule.

With no decision on the horizon since June 11, South Carolina has sought permission to use the map this year, deeming it unconstitutional. A panel of judges unanimously agreed on Thursday to keep the map for this election.

It noted that courts generally do not allow the use of maps if they are found to be inaccurate. “But with primary election procedures fast approaching, an appeal in the Supreme Court still pending, and no settlement plan in place, the ideal must bend to the practical,” the judges wrote.

If the Supreme Court later upholds the lower court ruling, new maps will have to be drawn for the 2026 elections.

Last year, a panel of two judges nominated by President Barack Obama and one by President Biden illegally split neighborhoods in the Charleston area to facilitate Mays' race. The committee found that the new taxes “displaced more than 30,000 African American citizens from their former district.”

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In arguments before the Supreme Court in October, lawyers for South Carolina argued that state lawmakers did not rely on race to draw the maps unconstitutionally. Instead, they used political information to decide where to draw the lines, they said.

During the arguments, the majority of the Supreme Court wanted to reinstate the taxes that the government wanted. Five months later, the judges still haven't ruled. Both sides asked the judges to issue a ruling by January.

By hanging the case, the Supreme Court effectively let the clock tick for this year's elections.

Candidates must file paperwork by Monday and ballots must be mailed to military and overseas voters by April 27 under federal law. That deadline led the panel of judges to allow the state to keep this year's congressional map.

The plaintiffs rejected lawmakers' attempt to keep the existing map intact instead of drawing a new one.

“By refusing to take meaningful action, the Legislature has undermined democracy and further strengthened voter suppression in the state,” said Adriel Cepeda Terriux, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's voting rights program, in a statement.

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