Caucus Report – Redistricting

The 2011 legislative session finally came to an end this week after the House and Senate put the finishing touches on a Congressional redistricting plan that adds a 7th Congressional District to our state.

First, a little history and background.

Every 10 years, the General Assembly must re-draw the House, Senate, and Congressional districts based on the U.S. Census data. This year, the Census Bureau determined that South Carolina’s population grew enough to get a 7th Congressional District – something our state has not had since 1933. (The final holder of the seat was Hampton Fulmer, the then-Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.)

South Carolina also had 8th and 9th Congressional districts before the Civil War. The Census Bureau notified us late last year that it would re-establish the 7th District, sparking the debate as to where to put the new district. Most of the state’s growth over the last several years was centered along the coast – in particular the area in and around Myrtle Beach. House Republicans believed from the beginning that a Horry-Florence-Pee Dee-centered district made the most sense.

A small group of Senate Republicans disagreed and succeeded in drawing a Senate plan with the district centered near Beaufort that could have thrown the Congressional map to a panel of Federal judges that would have been tasked to draw our Congressional districts.

The compromise approved this week came after months of public input and work put in by state lawmakers. This compromise took the House and Senate plans into consideration – along with the extensive input offered by the public and our Congressional Delegation– to formulate a compromise that best represented our entire state. 

House Speaker Bobby Harrell said in a statement this week: “This plan is fair, legally sound and truly represents the will of our citizens and communities of interest around our state.”

Since the House Judiciary Committee first started working on redistricting, the House worked hard to have the most inclusive, responsive and transparent redistricting process our state has ever gone through.  House members and the public had multiple chances to weigh in on the debate throughout the process.

The Congressional plan now goes to Governor Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature – her spokesman said this week that she would sign the plan.

We are confident that the new district drawn will also be a conservative Republican district. An independent demographer wrote this week that “it is my opinion that the new 7th District as drawn in the compromise plan reflects the most conservative demographics to ensure the best opportunity to elect additional Republicans.”

The state House of Representatives plan approved last month, and signed by Governor Haley, creates four new districts located in Berkeley, Horry, Beaufort, and York counties. Four districts – 2 Republican, 2 Democrat – were “collapsed” to accommodate those new districts.

One final note on redistricting: The addition of a Congressional seat also increases South Carolina’s influence in the presidential election since delegates to the Electoral College are based on the number of Congressmen and Senators from a particular state. We will grow from 8 to 9 electoral votes in the 2012 election. States consistently won by Republicans in the last decade will gain a total of 6 electoral votes.

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