WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Jan. 27, South Carolina Republican lawmakers appealed a decision striking down the state’s congressional map for racial gerrymandering to the U.S. Supreme Court.
After the South Carolina Legislature enacted new legislative and congressional districts drawn with 2020 census data, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and a voter challenged the state House and congressional maps as racial gerrymanders in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments. Lawmakers and the plaintiffs reached an agreement to redraw the state House map to be more representative of Black South Carolinians, but litigation over the congressional map continued.
On Jan. 6, 2023, a federal three-judge panel held that South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District was a racial gerrymander and struck down the map. The court found that creating South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District would have been “effectively impossible without the gerrymandering of the African American population of Charleston County” and that the “movement of over 30,000 African Americans in a single county from Congressional District No. 1 to Congressional District No. 6 created a stark racial gerrymander of Charleston County.” The court ordered lawmakers to draw and present a new congressional map by March 31, 2023.
Last week, lawmakers appealed the decision striking down the 1st Congressional District to the U.S. Supreme Court. They’re also asking the nation’s highest court to pause the order to redraw districts while their appeal is heard. Since the plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the congressional map under the 14th and 15th Amendments, federal law required a three-judge panel to hear the claims instead of a single district court judge. Any decision from a three-judge panel is then appealable directly to the Supreme Court — and the Supreme Court has to accept the appeal and decide it.
Unlike the vast majority of cases that wind up before the Supreme Court, in the case of South Carolina, it’s not a question of if the Court will hear the Republican lawmakers’ appeal of the congressional map, but when. Notably, the Court doesn’t have to hold oral argument before making a final decision.