As I previously mentioned in this space, I am one of the seven members of South Carolina House of Representatives Redistricting Committee. Based on the constitutional requirements that elected officials each represent essentially an equal number of citizens (one person, one vote principle), the reapportionment and redistricting process takes place every 10 years following the completion of the latest census.
The General Assembly redraws the legislative boundaries for both South Carolina’s congressional districts as well as for state legislative districts. In addition to equalizing the districts, the committee adopts certain criteria to comply with the federal requirements.
For the last three weeks, our committee has been holding in-person public hearings across all four corners of the state, from Greenville to Bluffton, Myrtle Beach to Rock Hill, and many other wonderful communities in between. The beauty and majesty of South Carolina and her people have been on full display.
In traveling across our state and hearing from so many citizens, I am reminded of the old saying that the call to heaven from South Carolina is truly a local call. We are blessed to live in this incredible place.
By the time you read this, we will have completed our virtual and in-person hearings. However, we are still receiving email testimony via email at Redistricting@SCHouse.gov.
The hearings are one of several keystones underpinning the process or redistricting in South Carolina. We have been seeking public input and insight into the process of redrawing the district lines in order to accommodate the tremendous growth in the state since the 2010 Census.
Throughout my time in public service, as often as possible, I have shared my belief that public input and transparency is essential to good government. This process is no different, the public’s input is a key consideration for our committee as we formulate a proposed plan for presentation to the House Judiciary Committee, and ultimately adopt a plan for consideration by the full House of Representatives.
Unlike prior redistricting cycles, the plan that gains approval of the House and Senate is no longer subject to advance “pre-clearance” by the United States Justice Department, as the laws applicable to the redistricting have continued to evolve, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a requirement of the Voting Rights Act that required some states to have federal pre-approval of redistricting plans.
While this pre-approval is no longer required, we have the benefit of working from the existing districts that were approved by both the U.S. Department of Justice in 2011, and withstood challenge and scrutiny through federal lawsuits which resulted in confirmation of the district lines as currently drawn.
While the fundamental goal of our committee and the House is to adopt a plan that assures the legislative districts provide for equal voting rights, it also important that we hear from citizens as to how they identify or define their communities of interests so that we can better understand commonality and connections that matter to them.
Public input is indispensable to ensuring South Carolina’s districts best represent the people of the state. We are truly the House of the people, and we want input on specific issues or concerns in every community and neighborhood across the state. If you have not participated in this process yet, please submit your testimony to Redistricting@SCHouse.gov.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov