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A federal court in South Carolina ruled that the upcoming congressional elections in the state will be held using a map that was previously deemed unconstitutional and discriminatory against Black voters. The decision was made due to time constraints leading up to the primary elections on June 11, with early voting starting on May 28. The case revolves around the 1st Congressional District, currently held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace, and last year, a three-judge panel ordered the district to be redrawn after finding that race was used as a proxy for partisan affiliation in violation of the 14th Amendment.

Republican Rep. Nancy Mace narrowly won her election in 2020, defeating Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Cunningham by a slim margin. Following redistricting driven by the 2020 census, Mace won reelection by a larger margin in 2022. The civil rights groups challenging the district argued that the state lawmakers deliberately redrew the district to exclude Black voters and create a safer seat for Republicans. Last year, the panel of judges concluded that the state “exiled” Democratic-leaning Black voters from the district to benefit Mace, prompting an appeal from the state. The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case but has yet to issue a decision.

Both the state and the civil rights groups had requested a decision from the Supreme Court by January 1 in order to prepare for the upcoming elections. However, with no decision forthcoming, the federal court opted to move forward with the current map due to the impracticality of making changes so close to the voting deadlines. The American Civil Liberties Union, part of the coalition challenging the district, criticized the decision, stating that it undermines democracy and entrenches voter suppression in the state.

The case in South Carolina differs from a similar one in Alabama, where Republican lawmakers were found to have diluted Black voters’ political power under the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alabama case led to a new map with a second district where Democratic-leaning Black voters make up a significant portion of the electorate. The situation in South Carolina highlights ongoing challenges with redistricting and the impact on minority voters, with the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision likely to have long-term implications for representation in the state.

As the primary elections in South Carolina draw closer, the uncertainty surrounding the congressional map adds another layer of complexity to an already contentious political landscape. The case underscores the ongoing struggle for fair representation and the need to address issues of racial and partisan gerrymandering. With voting rights at the forefront of national conversations, the outcome of the South Carolina case will be closely watched for its potential impact on future elections and the protection of minority voters’ rights.

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