COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina Senate has submitted plans on how they’d like their district lines to be redrawn. The plan mirrors the population shifts seen across the state and would make some major changes in the Midlands.
South Carolina has grown by about 500,000 people since 2010. Some areas have grown much more than others, and the Senate’s redistricting committee is tasked with redrawing district lines to make each district as equal as possible.
“The Midlands grew, but not as much as the coast. Not as much as the area South of Charlotte. And that means that the Midlands loses a district to that fast growing coastal area,” explained Lynn Teague with League of Women Voters.
Teague has followed the redistricting process very closely and LWV has submitted draft plans for new maps for lawmakers to consider.
When senators met recently to share the drafted map their staff created for senate districts, they proposed getting rid of a district in the Midlands and adding one to the Charleston area.
"One of the changes that we really had in the Midlands was trying to make sure we had three senators in Richland County, and the only way to do that was to move one district out of Richland County, and that’s what this plan does,” explained cartographer for the Senate, Will Roberts.
If the proposal passes, District 20, currently held by Senator Dick Harpootlian, will be removed from the Midlands and go to Charleston.
Roberts said Thursday at the committee meeting that they tried to really listen to the public and organizations like the League of Women Voters when drawing lines.
"The plan we came up with really focused on those issues as far as keeping counties together, making sure we try to keep counties as whole as we could, as well as trying to avoid splitting voting precincts as much as possible,” Roberts said.
Their proposed senate district map keeps 19 counties wholly intact, while the current maps that were created in 2011 keep 11 counties intact.
Plus, current district lines divide 156 voting districts, the new plan divides five.
“We really appreciate the fact that they made an effort to keep counties together and keep municipalities unbroken with precincts not nearly as fragmented as they were,” said Teague.
To balance each senate district, they must have around 111,000 people in it, which Roberts said their new plan does.
Teague said once new district maps are passed by the General Assembly, they’ll take effect at the next election. For state senators, that will be 2024 but the U.S. Senate race is next year.
The Senate Redistricting Committee will meet again next Friday to get public testimony on their drafted plan, and the House Redistricting Committee plans to meet next Wednesday.