WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Feb. 14, a three-judge panel adjudicating a redistricting lawsuit in South Carolina denied an attempt to dismiss the case. The lawsuit alleges that South Carolina’s new state House and congressional maps are racially gerrymandered and dilute the voting strength of Black voters in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. The plaintiffs, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and a voter, argue that race was the predominant factor used by the South Carolina Legislature to draw certain state House and congressional districts and therefore they are unconstitutional.
House legislators named as defendants in the case sought to end the case. They filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring racial gerrymandering claims and that, as summarized by the court, the plaintiffs “failed to plausibly plead racial gerrymandering and that this is, in reality, a non-justiciable partisan gerrymandering action disguised as a racial gerrymandering action.” In its order on Monday, the three-judge panel rejected these arguments, holding that both plaintiffs had standing to bring racial gerrymandering claims individually and as an organization. The court also ruled that the plaintiffs adequately stated their claims, finding that their “detailed allegations, though far from conclusive, are sufficient to ‘plausibly’ allege that race predominated the redistricting process in the challenged districts.” The panel stated that further arguments on whether the lawsuit hinges on a racial or partisan argument will have to be litigated at trial. A trial in the case was originally scheduled for the end of February, but it has been postponed to a later date so that the parties can engage in settlement negotiations.