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Lawmakers looking to change South Carolina's redistricting process

Democrats say South Carolina’s process allows for non-competitive elections, leaving many voters without options on the ballot.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The redistricting process for the Palmetto State is slowly underway but some lawmakers are not satisfied with the way it’s done. It turns out, South Carolina is the only state in the country that does not have laws in place for the redistricting process. 

"It's critical South Carolina joins the other 49 states and creates legislation so that years from now, everyone will know what the rules are and we'll all be playing by the same rules,” said Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing district lines every 10 years to reflect a state’s population.

RELATED: South Carolina lawmakers begin redistricting process

While all other states have laws outlining the system, South Carolina does not. Instead, committees are formed in the House and Senate, and they use their own set of guidelines.

"We do have a subcommittee that has established guidelines that states we will try to keep communities of interest together, we will try to avoid gerrymandering, meaning drawing lines only to elect a certain person, there’s some guidelines in place, but they’re not as specific as other states might have,” explained Senator Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield.

Fanning and Cobb-Hunter have introduced legislation to change this. They want to create laws that ensure fairness and create an independent commission to draw district lines instead of lawmakers.

RELATED: South Carolina's growing population leads to a growing economy, experts say

Cobb-Hunter said "what we are proposing is that the people would pick the politician, not the politician pick the people.”

They’re concerned South Carolina’s process allows for non-competitive elections, leaving many voters without options on the ballot.

"We can no longer sit back and keep a system in place that for decades has a game in place with no rules with the politicians getting to decide which voters we have,” Fanning continued.

However, their legislation has received pushback on both sides of the aisle.

Fanning added, “I have just as much disagreement with this bill among my Democratic colleagues as my Republican colleagues.”

While Cobb-Hunter and Fanning know they can’t change the redistricting process this year while out of session, they believe their bill can still make a difference.

"By shining that light, we’re hoping to increase participation in these meetings that are occurring,” said Fanning.

RELATED: How to have your voice heard in SC House redistricting plans

The Senate has held several public hearings around the state on redistricting. 

The House begins their public meetings this week. Voters in the Columbia area will get the chance to speak up in early October.

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