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South Carolina can use an existing congressional map that was previously deemed unconstitutional in its upcoming elections, as a panel of three federal judges ruled on Thursday. The judges, Mary Geiger Lewis, Toby Heytens, and Richard Gergel, issued the ruling, allowing the existing map for Congressional District 1 to remain in place until after the 2024 election cycle. This decision comes as the Supreme Court has not yet issued a ruling on the case, and legislators have not drawn up a new map.

In January 2023, the judges had ruled that the map was an “unconstitutional racial gerrymander” and had given the state until March 31, 2023 to issue a remedial plan. However, after the state filed an appeal, the deadline was amended to “30 days after a final decision” of the Supreme Court. The judges acknowledged that it is unusual for an invalidated map to continue being used, but stated that “the ideal must bend to the practical” as the state’s primary election is scheduled for June 11.

The American Civil Liberties Union criticized the decision, with Adriel Cepeda Derieux, deputy director for the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, stating that the state’s failure to correct the map “blatantly disregards our brave clients’ voices and the rights of Black voters.” However, the ruling emphasized the need to balance the ideal with practical considerations, particularly with the primary election procedures rapidly approaching and no remedial plan in place.

The Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling on the case, despite hearing arguments in October and expressing skepticism that the map was unlawfully drawn to exclude Black voters. If the Court upholds the lower court’s ruling, the state would be required to draw up new maps for the 2026 election cycle. Congressional district maps are typically drawn every decade based on federal census results, and in this case, advocacy groups sued lawmakers over an alleged unconstitutional racial gerrymander in the first congressional district map.

In a separate case in New York, district maps drawn by state Democrats were struck down by the State Court of Appeals and deemed unconstitutionally gerrymandered. After a lengthy legal battle, New York Democrats approved a new congressional map in February to slightly improve their chances of winning a majority. Governor Kathy Hochul signed the proposal into law the same day. The issue of redistricting and gerrymandering continues to be a contentious and complex topic in various states across the country.

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