The 1st District had seen competitive elections under the previous map in recent years: Democrat Joe Cunningham won a 51-49 upset in 2018 before losing by that same margin to Republican Nancy Mace in 2020. However, the GOP engaged in defensive gerrymandering in order to insulate Mace from future challenges, shifting the 1st from a district that had backed Donald Trump by a 52-46 margin to one that would have given him a wider 53-45 edge.
They did so by moving Black voters—who reliably vote for Democrats—from the 1st into the already dark blue 6th District, a Voting Rights Act-protected seat that already was home to a Black majority and has long sent Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Black Democrat, to Congress. (Due to population loss, the 6th had to add a significant number of new residents and now has a Black plurality, despite GOP packing.) As a result, Mace comfortably won reelection in the 1st by a 56-42 margin last year.
But despite this latest ruling, a revised map may not significantly improve Black voters' ability to reliably elect their preferred candidate—almost certainly a Democrat—in a second one of the state's seven districts, even though nearly two-sevenths of South Carolina's population is Black. That's because the court's ruling hinged on the 14th Amendment rather than the Voting Rights Act; while the latter can require states to draw districts that empower Black voters to elect their chosen candidates, the former mandates only that map-makers don't let race predominate over other factors without justification when crafting lines.
Republicans may therefore try to continue to pursue their partisan ends of drawing a map that favors Republicans in six of the state's seven districts simply by convincing the court that a future map does not overly rely on race. Nevertheless, if this ruling survives a likely appeal, it could see the 1st District become somewhat less favorable toward Republicans. But given the Supreme Court's deep hostility toward minority voting rights in recent redistricting rulings, this decision could get overturned.
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