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SC lawmakers: Redistricting lawsuit is premature

People look over the current South Carolina Senate districts at a public meeting by a Senate...
People look over the current South Carolina Senate districts at a public meeting by a Senate subcommittee on redistricting in Sumter on July 28, 2021.(AP)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 1:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Leading South Carolina Republican lawmakers are dismissing allegations they’re taking too long to draw new congressional and legislative districts.

The response came in a filing this week by attorneys for state House Speaker Jay Lucas and chairmen of two House committees presiding over the process.

It’s part of a lawsuit from civil rights groups against Gov. Henry McMaster, state election officials and lawmakers over the yet-to-be-redrawn boundaries filed on Oct. 12 by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The groups are asking a judge to order lawmakers “to abide by a concrete timeline that will allow sufficient time for public notice, input, and the resolution of any litigation, and result in finalized, legally compliant maps well in advance of critical deadlines, including the March 30, 2022 candidate declaration deadline.”

The groups say the time for candidates to research new districts and settle lawsuits is quickly running out.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the populations in each district within a state are required by the U.S. Constitution to be roughly equal, so every person’s vote matters equally.

But because of population changes over the last decade, the current Congressional and legislative districts are not all equal. For example, new census data shows the First Congressional District, currently represented by Republican Nancy Mace, now has more than 100,000 people more than the Sixth Congressional District, represented by Democrat Jim Clyburn, according to the lawsuit.

“This is par for the course,” Gov. Henry McMaster said of the suit on Oct. 12. “Anytime we go through redistricting, we go through lawsuits as well.”

A federal court has typically had to weigh in during past redistricting cycles to ensure the maps are legal before they are approved. The lawsuit claims it usually takes at least four months for these disputes to be settled.

The redistricting process was initially delayed because data from the U.S. Census, which is used to determine districts, was released later than usual because of the pandemic.

Attorneys for Republican lawmakers say a request that a judicial panel set a timeline infringes on their duties and should be denied.

Copyright 2021 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.