The American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project and the ACLU of South Carolina are urging the U.S. Justice Department to strike down a proposed congressional redistricting map.
In July, South Carolina legislators submitted the planned redistricting map, which included a new seventh congressional seat connecting Horry County with the Pee Dee, to the Justice Department.
The changes must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act because of the state's racial history.
The ACLU's eight-page letter sent to the Justice Department states the proposed map does not meet the standards of the Voting Rights Act. The organization states it violates Section 5 of the act, which also says that the state bears the burden of showing that its redistricting plan does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.
"We sent the redistricting committee our own redistricting map that includes a much more accurate reflection of the state's population," said ACLU of South Carolina Executive Director Victoria Middleton. "It details both demographics and principles of redistricting, we feel, in a better plan."
The introduction of a seventh congressional seat would mean only one out of seven seats would represent minorities, said Middleton.
"It's blatantly political and racial discrimination," said Reverend Leo Woodberry of Florence. "African Americans traditionally vote democrat."
With one-third of the state minorities and possibly one out of seven districts receiving a democratic representative, Woodberry foresees only fourteen percent of the state receiving accurate representation.
"We received the map given to us by the ACLU and we considered it," said Republican State Rep. Alan Clemmons of Horry County. "But in our opinion, their plan would require an illegal retrogression."
Clemmons says a retrogression would take place under the ACLU proposed map because the Sixth District seat held by Democrat Rep. Jim Clyburn holds more than 50 percent of existing black voters, and their map would change that amount to 50 percent. Illegal retrogression occurs when an existing majority of black voters is switched to 50 percent or less.
In their conclusion, the ACLU said, "The state's failure to prove that this redistricting plan would have neither a discriminatory purpose nor effect, we respectfully request that the Department of Justice deny preclearance to South Carolina's submission."
Oftentimes redistricting maps have been sent to court, said Middleton. She would not speculate on if the ACLU would do so in this case because the organization is still waiting for the Justice Department's reaction.
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Click here to see the Congressional comment letter