The fix has been in by members of the S.C. House for a long time. For months, they’ve been actors in a theatrical drama of their own creation to make it look like newly redrawn voting districts are fair.
They’re not. In fact, their laughable work will make South Carolina’s noisy partisan divides worse. Their work is nothing more than a bold build of an electoral map of 124 House districts so more Republicans win and the voting power of Black South Carolinians is dispersed. Their work strives to sow confusion in voting, not improve democracy. They should be ashamed of the way they’re taunting democratic principles of fairness, inclusion and equality.
But they’ll be back in special session Dec. 1 for Act Two — the public process of justifying the inequities and partisan districts they claim are fair.
You should contact your state representative in Columbia today and demand that he or she vote against the laughable plan passed this week by the House Judiciary Committee. And if they end up voting for it, you and your neighbors should let them know they’ll face a spirited reckoning next year in primary and general elections.
In fact, every single member of the South Carolina House of Representatives who votes for these proposed new districts should face a serious challenger in 2022. Let’s use the power that’s left to vote these people fiddling with democracy out of office — all of them who are spitting on competition. Instead of 2022 elections being about Republicans and Democrats, make it about new blood versus incumbents. “Get rid of incumbents” should be the rallying cry of 2022.
If you think redistricting inequities are hyperbole, look at an analysis that highlights how messed up the proposed House districts are:
Precinct splits: Of the 2,000-plus voting precincts in the state, 123 now have split precincts, which means some voters in the precinct vote for one state representative and others for another. Having split precincts creates confusion and time delays at the polls because managers have to steer voters to the correct machine for them to cast ballots. Number of split precincts in the proposed map: 370. Couldn’t the House do better than this?
Partisan districts: The House plan reduced competition by creating additional Republican-leaning districts, from 79 to 84; more Democratic-leaning districts, from 29 to 31, and more majority-minority districts, from 30 to 32. All of this is bad for democracy because it creates a predetermined outcome and guarantees a GOP House. In the current plan, only 16 of 124 districts are considered competitive — meaning either party has a chance to win. In the new plan? Just 9. That means there is a real chance for either party to win in only nine districts. Such a poorly-drawn map is a slap in the face.
Lynn Teague, a vice president with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, offered this thought on the map being considered by the S.C. House: “The extremely low number of competitive districts – even at a generous plus/minus 5 percent standard – points toward making voters nearly obsolete in general elections for the S.C. House of Representatives.”
Imagine that — elected officials trying to make voters obsolete. Sound like people who want to support autocratic leadership?
Months ago, we described the rigged writing on the wall: “What really needs to happen is the opposite of incumbency protection. To produce a fair reapportionment as envisioned by the U.S. Constitution every 10 years, the chickens [voters] need to be in charge through a redistricting commission that is independent of the legislature. But if you believe that’s going to happen anytime soon, let me sell you a seat on a rocketship.”
Of course, you apparently now can buy seats on rocketships. But you can’t get fair maps in South Carolina. What the S.C. House is doing should make you mad. The way to fight back is to raise Cain now and, if you don’t get what you want in December, raise more Cain at the polls next year. Let’s not allow these foxes to keep guarding their own henhouse.
Andy Brack is the publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: email@example.com.