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South Carolina to Use Congressional Map Deemed Illegal

Originally published by Patrick Marley for the Washington Post

In a scenario that has played out in three states in recent years, a federal court ruled Thursday that time had run out to draw a new congressional district in South Carolina and that the state would have to proceed this fall with an existing election map the court had previously deemed illegal.

The ruling echoes redistricting cases in other Southern states where courts found that congressional maps violated the voting rights of Black voters and other people of color but allowed them to be used anyway, at least temporarily. In recent years, that happened in Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

In the latest instance, a panel of three judges decided to let South Carolina use a new map drawn by the Republican-led legislature because the Supreme Court had not yet decided an appeal that will ultimately determine how the district should be drawn. Voting rights advocates decried the ruling, saying it is unjust to hold even one election in districts that are unconstitutional.

“Once an election happens, you kind of can’t get back that election,” said Leah Aden, senior counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which brought the South Carolina lawsuit.

The ruling came a day after a different federal court upheld a congressional map in Florida that favors Republicans and erases a seat held by a Black Democrat.Those decisions, along with others in recent months, mean the congressional maps for 2024 are largely set. Republicans narrowly control the House, and voters this fall will decide whether to let them keep it.

Also Thursday, a federal appeals court issued a ruling that all but ensures North Carolina will use state legislative maps this fall that Democrats and voting rights advocates say dilute Black representation in the statehouse.

Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said appeals take so long that states sometimes get a chance to use illegal maps for one or two election cycles before they are forced to draw new ones.

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