There’s a good chance your state, local or federal elected officials will be different the next time you cast a ballot if you live in the Charleston area. With three of the fastest-growing counties in the state, tri-county district lines will change once state legislators are done with the once-a-decade redistricting process that kicked off last week.
The process sounds straightforward: Redraw fair state districts to ensure each has the same number of residents. But in a state where the Republican Party is looking to maintain control of the state legislature, power-obsessed politicians have the added challenge of ensuring easy elections for GOP candidates and minimizing the impact of generational changes eroding the party base.
This is your chance to see the political machine at work: Over the next few weeks, state House and Senate staff members will travel the state to collect public input that will help determine where those lines will fall. Go to the meetings. Call your legislators. Insist that they be fair and not play politics with the process.
When updated counts from the 2020 census are delivered to state lawmakers in the coming days, state-employed cartographers and statisticians will get to work figuring out where population growth shifted significantly since 2010. For some areas, 2019 figures show those shifts have been more pronounced. Along the coast, every county except Georgetown showed growth of at least 17%, while the state as a whole grew by 14.13%. Horry County has continued its monstrous expansion over the last decade, up a whopping 31.6%. Suburban counties around Charleston also experienced growth: 27.8% in Berkeley and 19.6% in Dorchester. Charleston County has seen a 17.5% increase in population. Charlotte’s suburbs also added more than 75,000 new residents in York (+24.3%) and Lancaster (+27.9%) counties.
Wherever there’s been growth, district lines will have to change. It’s as simple as that. Around Charleston, look for changes to districts where Republicans have seen close competition from Democrats in recent years. District lines for state Sen. Sandy Senn and Rep. Lin Bennett could see tweaks, for example. Democrats who flipped Republican districts over the last decade — S.C. Reps. Krystle Matthews, J.A. Moore, Spencer Wetmore — may also draw the attention of GOP map-makers looking to fiddle with the process.
The 1st Congressional District will almost surely see changes as well. The addition of the Myrtle Beach-anchored 7th District in 2010 caused a bit of a shuffle for the state’s congressional delegation. Continued growth in Charleston, Horry and Beaufort counties means more changes that could affect 2022 races. You may have noticed no one has announced a major challenge to U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace yet — potential challengers are waiting on the maps.
Charleston city and county council districts likely will see changes when all is said and done.
But it all starts with changes at the state level. The Senate redistricting committee will make its only Charleston stop at 6:30 p.m., Aug. 10, at Trident Tech in North Charleston. House lawmakers will announce their meetings next week.