Will the Supreme Court protect Black voters in South Carolina gerrymandering case?
The fate of Black voters in South Carolina is in the hands of the Supreme Court after the justices heard oral arguments in a gerrymandering case this week.
In the case Alexander v. South Carolina Conference of the NAACP, the NAACP argues that Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally removed thousands of Black voters from the state’s 1st Congressional District in violation of their 14th and 15th Amendment rights.
During oral arguments, liberal justice Ketanji Brown Jackson stated that the NAACP did not need a “smoking gun” to show that Republican lawmakers discriminated against Black voters on the basis of race.
Meanwhile, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts contended that the NAACP did not have direct evidence to prove Republican lawmakers used race as a driving force to create the state’s congressional map. He insisted there is plenty of data to justify why Republican lawmakers chose the map’s boundaries.
Allen Chaney, legal director at ACLU of South Carolina, told theGrio that he believes his team, which is one of four legal groups representing the NAACP, performed well during Wednesday’s oral arguments.
“I was so proud to see our team put on just a fantastic argument to vindicate our victory at trial that showed that the 1st Congressional District was a racial gerrymander,” said Chaney.
“The folks that live in the 1st Congressional District deserve a fair map, and they deserve it before the next congressional election. One election on an unconstitutional map is one election too many,” he continued.
Chaney told theGrio that during oral arguments, the defense — representing the South Carolina General Assembly and Senate President Thomas C. Alexander — tried to “cheat the electoral system…to accomplish a political goal.”
“They were trying to break democracy by cheating in favor of the Republican Party,” he said.
“What we showed at trial and what we hope will be vindicated in the Supreme Court’s opinion is that they did so on the backs of Black voters,” he added.
Chaney told theGrio that Republicans “intentionally and surgically manipulated the 1st Congressional District in Charleston County to excise Black voters out of CD1 [and] put them in CD6 on the basis of their race and their race alone.”
In January, a three-judge panel ordered South Carolina to redraw a congressional map the state adopted in 2022. The judges ruled that the map removed 30,000 Black voters from the state’s 1st Congressional District to Rep. James Clyburn’s 6th Congressional District in order to silence Black voters.
Republican lawmakers appealed the lower court’s decision, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
According to reports, Clyburn supports the NAACP’s lawsuit and asked the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court’s decision.
Michael B. Moore, a Democratic candidate for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District – which is currently represented by Republican Nancy Mace – stood outside of the Supreme Court during oral arguments.
He told theGrio, “It was important for me to be here as a citizen” and to protect “my voice” and “my vote.”
“It is also disappointing that in 2023, I have to be here fighting for the similar kinds of battles that my great-great-grandfather fought,” he said.
“In 1868, my great-great-grandfather Robert Smalls was elected to the South Carolina legislature,” but before that, “his district was gerrymandered,” he said.
Moore told theGrio that Republicans in South Carolina are attempting to suppress the Black vote because “it’s about holding on to political power by any means necessary.”
“We are a nation of laws. We are a nation of institutions. Either this thing we call democracy is something that we are going to abide by and live in – or not,” he said.
The 6-3 majority conservative Supreme Court has until July 2024 to issue a decision in the case before it breaks for recess.
Moore stated he is hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm the lower court’s ruling to redraw South Carolina’s congressional map. The outcome of the case — among other similar gerrymandering cases challenged in the court system — could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the House of Representatives in 2025.
“I am heartened a bit by cases in Alabama, North Carolina, and Louisiana where they upheld voting rights,” said Moore.
“I would hope that they, you know, sort of leverage the precedents created there and lean into really one of the more foundational principles of our system, which is one person, one vote, and do the right thing in this case.”
He added, “I look forward to the court affirming our victory.”
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