CASE SUMMARY

On October 12, 2021, the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP and an African-American South Carolinian voter filed a federal lawsuit against South Carolina's Governor, the members of the South Carolina State Election Commission, and various state legislative leaders, challenging the state's current congressional and legislative redistricting maps and the state's handling of their redistricting process thus far as violating the U.S. Constitution. First, the plaintiffs allege that due to population shifts throughout the last decade, the state's current congressional and legislative redistricting plans have now become malapportioned in violation of the one person, one vote constitutional principle under Article I, Section 2 and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that continued use of these districts will negatively impact the plaintiffs' 1st and 14th Amendment rights to participate equally in the political process. Next, the plaintiffs assert that the Legislature's decision to delay the commencement of their redistricting process until early 2022 harms the plaintiffs' Freedom of Association as protected by the 1st and 14th Amendments because the "unduly prolonged uncertainty" about new district boundaries will impede candidates' ability to effective run for office in addition to restricting the ability of voters to assess candidate positions and qualifications, advocate for their preferred candidates, and associate with like-minded voters. They also assert the State's shortened time period for redistricting effectively precludes sufficient time for public input, judicial review, or for the enactment of maps that comply with federal law sufficiently in advance of the elections. The plaintiffs are seeking a judicial declaration that South Carolina's current congressional and legislative plans are unconstitutional, an injunction barring the defendants from implementing or utilizing the old plans in any future elections, an order establishing a schedule by which the State, and if they fail, the court, must enact new, lawful congressional and legislative redistricting plans, and an order staying the primary candidate filing and qualification deadlines pending the implementation of lawful new districts.

On November 12, 2021, the court issued an opinion and order granting in part the House Defendants' motion to stay the case. Finding that the plaintiffs' claims were not yet ripe because it remained speculative as to whether the redistricting process would be completed prior to the January 2022 regular session, the court stayed the case until January 18, 2022, in order to give the Legislature an opportunity to enact new redistricting maps. The state enacted a state House and state Senate redistricting plan on December 10, 2021.

On December 23, 2021, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint adding two claims challenging the enacted state House plan as unconstitutional. First, plaintiffs assert that the state House plan is a racial gerrymander in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause because race was the predominant factor in the creation of numerous state House districts, and this predominant use of race was not narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. Second, they assert the challenged districts were drawn with a racially discriminatory intent against Black voters in violation of the U.S. Constitution's 14th and 15th Amendments. The plaintiffs are asking that in addition to their originally requested relief, the court issue a judicial declaration that the challenged state House districts are unconstitutional, a temporary and permanent injunction barring the defendants from using the plan in any future elections, and for the court to order new redistricting plans in the event the defendants fail to adopt new, lawful plans by February 15, 2022.

On February 10, 2022, the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint adding two more claims against the state's enacted congressional plan. First, they allege Congressional Districts 1, 2 and 5 are racial gerrymanders in violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause because race was the predominant consideration in their creation. Second, they allege the congressional redistricting plan was enacted with an intent to discriminate against Black voters in violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments.

On May 5, 2022, the parties signed a settlement agreement to resolve the plaintiffs' state House districts claims. The agreement stipulates that in exchange for the plaintiffs' amending of their complaint to drop the state House claims, the state legislature will pass the agreed upon settlement map by May 12, 2022, which will not take effect until the 2024 elections. The settlement does not impact or relate to the plaintiffs' congressional districts challenges, which remain pending.

CASE LIBRARY

U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Columbia Division - No. 3:21-cv-3302 [formerly S.C. State Conf. of the NAACP v. McMaster]