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Coloring Outside of the Lines

Now that South Carolina’s 2020 census data has been updated, the General Assembly is required to redraw the district boundaries for all House and Senate seats, as it does every 10 years.

One of 124 SC House districts across the state, District 18 stretches from Lake Lanier on the North Carolina border, down through the middle of Blue Ridge and ends just south of Greer along Hammett Bridge Road. On the east, it borders Spartanburg County; on the west it follows Highway 101 North close by Lake Robinson. It encompasses mountain views, pastoral settings, and suburban neighborhoods along with the urban attractions of downtown Greer.  No wonder then that the population of District 18 grew by 11.36% over the last decade – twice the state average and more than triple the growth of neighboring District 17. Since district boundaries are based on population, the boundaries of District 18 will shrink and shift. The question is where? 

While South Carolina’s population grew overall, the growth was not uniform. The population of some Upstate House districts grew by 30% or more while several districts down state declined by over 20%. Someone said that redrawing district lines was like trying to squeeze the air out of a sealed balloon.  Considering that each House member will be intent on drawing the lines to his advantage, it is more likely to resemble 124 representatives trying to make a giant balloon animal. Now where did I put that clown nose?

It wasn’t always so. Before 1973, we did not have single member districts. The 124 House members were allocated by county based on population.  Then the federal justice department got involved to help minority voters and now we have these gerrymandered and generically numbered House districts (South Carolina House District 18 . . . a sterile name for such a vibrant area of northern Greenville County). 

Based on the 1970 census, Greenville County had 12 House members before single member districts were established. Based on the current census numbers and using the old allocation method, we would now have 13. Using the single district method, we currently have 15 House members representing all or parts of the county. With our growth, that number should increase.