Federal court tells South Carolina to redraw gerrymandered House map

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A three judge panel ruled that the state's first congressional district was drawn to dilute the power of Black voters.

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's congressional maps will be redrawn after a three-judge federal panel ruled Friday that the U.S. House district lines intentionally split Black neighborhoods to dilute their voting power.

The state used the maps in this past November’s midterm elections after the Republican-dominated state Legislature redrew the lines earlier this year following the 2020 U.S. Census.

Friday's ruling said the coastal 1st District running from Charleston to Hilton Head Island was drawn to remove Black voters and make it a safer seat for Republicans.

Rep. Nancy Mace currently represents the district. She beat Joe Cunningham in 2020 after Cunningham became the first Democrat to flip a U.S. House seat in South Carolina in 30 years.

Mace won by just over 1 percentage point in 2020, but after the district was redrawn, won by 14 percentage points in November.

After the new congressional maps were approved, civil rights groups swiftly filed a lawsuit charging the state Legislature with choosing "perhaps the worst option of the available maps" for Black voters.

The judges requested state lawmakers pass new U.S. House maps by the end of March. They said no elections can take place in the 1st District until it is redrawn.

The NAACP, which brought the lawsuit challenging the maps, has said it will ask that special elections be held in any districts deemed unconstitutional.