South Carolina Redistricting Cases:  the 1990s

Burton v. Sheheen793 F. Supp. 1329 (D. S.C. 1992), vacated and remanded sub nom.  Statewide Reapportionment Advisory Committee v. Theodore, 508 U.S. 968 (1993) (mem.), and Campbell v. Theodore, 508 U.S. 968 (mem.)

Plaintiffs brought suit alleging that the State had failed to enact new congressional and state legislative redistricting plans and that the existing plans violated one person, one vote and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.  The General Assembly subsequently passed new state legislative plans, but the Governor vetoed them and the General Assembly was unable to override the veto.  The General Assembly was unable to agree on a congressional redistricting plan.  The parties then stipulated that the legislative process was at an impasse and that the existing plans violated one person, one vote.  The court then drew its own plans, which were used in the 1992 elections.  The Supreme Court vacated the lower court's judgment and remanded for further consideration in light of the argument of the United States that the lower court had, inter alia, failed to perform a plenary analysis of whether its plans complied with Section 2.  The Court did not, however, set aside the 1992 elections.  Following the remand, the General Assembly passed and obtained preclearance of new congressional and state legislative plans.  The Court then dismissed the case.  The plaintiffs sought attorneys' fees, but the court denied their request.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed the denial of attorneys' fees, and the Supreme Court denied certiorari.

Smith v. Beasley946 F. Supp. 1174 (D. S.C. 1996)

Plaintiffs challenged the state legislative plans drawn by the General Assembly following the remand in Statewide Reapportionment Advisory Committee v. Theodore, supra.  These plans created more Black-majority districts than the plans drawn by the Burton court.  Plaintiffs alleged that nine State House districts and three State Senate districts violated Shaw v. Reno and Miller v. Johnson.  The trial court held six House districts and three Senate districts unconstitutional on the grounds that race was the predominant factor in the drawing of these districts and that the districts were not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest. The court also held that the 1996 elections could go forward using the unconstitutional plans but that special elections would have to be held in 1997 in any districts that had to be redrawn as a result of the court's ruling.  After the 1996 elections, the General Assembly passed new state legislative plans.  The Attorney General precleared the House plan, and plaintiffs challenged two of the new House districts, arguing that they were still unconstitutional.  The trial court rejected the plaintiffs' challenge.  The Attorney General objected to the new Senate plan, and the trial court drew a plan of its own for the Senate.

Leonard v. Beasley, Civil No. 3:96-CV-3640 (D. S.C.)

Plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of South Carolina's 6th Congressional District, a Black-majority district drawn in 1994 after the remand in Statewide Reapportionment Advisory Committee v. Theodore, supra.  Plaintiffs alleged that race was the predominant factor in the drawing of this district and that it was not narrowly tailored to serve any compelling governmental interest.  Before trial, the case was settled.  Under the settlement agreement, plaintiffs agreed to dismiss their action without prejudice and not to reinstate it until after the end of the year 2000 session of the General Assembly, in order to give the General Assembly time to address congressional redistricting.  The parties further agreed that if the plaintiffs reinstated their action, the parties would stipulate that traditional redistricting principles were subordinated to racial considerations in the drawing of the current 6th District, that the State has a compelling interest in drawing a Black-majority congressional district of at least 50 percent Black voting age population (BVAP), and that several different configurations of such a district could be drawn that would be narrowly tailored.

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