The holidays are over and the New Year is in full swing. I trust you had a good holiday season and spent time with family and friends celebrating all the many blessings of our great nation. My holiday was exceptionally special and I have made a full recovery.
2021 is in the rearview mirror and the New Year offers the promise of abundant opportunities.
The General Assembly returned to Columbia to begin the 2022 session Jan. 11. Just prior to that, the House Judiciary Committee debated and approved a redistricting plan for the seven congressional districts in South Carolina. Different from the state House and Senate plans with “permissible deviations” in population of the districts, absolute equity in voting is required with congressional plans.
Essentially these districts can be only one person different in population based on the 2020 census numbers. While the House districts include approximately 41,000 residents, the Congressional Districts are required to be 731,204 (+/- 1 person).
The explosive growth over the past 10 years in certain areas of our state, especially along the coast, makes this rebalancing of population challenging.
Prior to 2000, Beaufort County was in the First Congressional District, with most of Charleston County; from 2000 to 2010, we were in the Second District with most of Lexington County; and since 2010, we have been back in the First District.
As we try to rebalance the population, the simple fact is the Lowcountry is not big enough yet to have our own congressional seat, but our numbers make drawing a new plan that keeps our area intact and connected with areas with similar issues challenging. We have heard from a number of residents of this area that we have more in common (“community of interest”) with the Charleston coastal areas than with Lexington, which is at the center of the state.
In addition to testimony throughout the fall, the redistricting subcommittee took in person and virtual testimony on Dec. 16 and 29 and continued to accept written testimony specifically related to the congressional plan through Jan. 9.
Separate from finishing the remaining redistricting work, the legislature will be busy early in the session deciding how to best spend the $2 billion from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. As I have discussed previously in this space, the expansion of broadband, especially in rural South Carolina, is incredibly important and will have an enormous impact on educating students, creating jobs and luring business to industry to rural areas.
It is my hope that a sizeable portion of this one-time federal funding will be allocated to expanding this infrastructure. Other legislative priorities will likely include election integrity, making it harder to cheat but making sure every legal vote is counted. I am proud to be a primary sponsor, along with the other members of the Beaufort Delegation, of a number of bills to accomplish these goals, including clarifying the circumstances under which a person is deemed to have changed domicile for voting purposes and to make mail-in absentee ballots more secure.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in the S.C. House of Representatives. If I may be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me either in Bluffton or in Columbia.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov