US Supreme Court delay forces South Carolina to leave discriminatory congressional map in place

“They’re creating apartheid-like conditions to maintain power and to stop minority voters from deciding where resources go in the state,” says April Albright, legal director of Black Voters Matter

A federal court ruled on Thursday that South Carolina can use a congressional map, which it previously deemed unconstitutional due to harmful impact on Black voters, given that the primary election is nearing and the U.S. Supreme Court has been slow to act on an appeal of the case.

The three-judge panel ruled to keep South Carolina’s congressional map in place despite previously ruling the map violates Black voters’ constitutional rights. The state’s primary elections are June 11 with early voting beginning in less than two months.

Democrat Michael B. Moore, congressional candidate for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, expressed disappointment in the court’s decision.

“As a representative of the targeted group that was unconstitutionally denied their political voice, this is deeply troubling,” he told theGrio. Moore is seeking to oust U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican.

U.S. Capitol,
The U.S. Capitol building is shown in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

April Albright, legal director of Black Voters Matter, told theGrio that she is “heartbroken” by the court’s decision.

“It makes no legal sense. It’s heartbreaking for Black voters in South Carolina because they only have one viable option to send someone to Congress,” Albright said.

Adriel I. Cepeda Derieux, deputy director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement that the court’s decision “has undermined democracy.”

Derieux added that this ruling has “further entrenched voter suppression in the state.”

Black Voters Matter,
A member of the audience wearing a ‘Black Voters Still Matter’ t-shirt from Georgia NAACP as Georgia Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) speaks during a Get Out the Vote rally December 3, 2022 in Hephzibah, Georgia. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Last year, the same three-judge panel took on the case Alexander v. South Carolina Conference of the NAACP in which the NAACP contended that Republican lawmakers violated Black voters’ 14th and 15th Amendment rights by unconstitutionally redrawing thousands of Black residents from the state’s 1st Congressional District to other districts, including Democratic Rep. James Clyburn’s 6th Congressional District to diminish the power of Black voters.

In January 2023, the judges ordered South Carolina to redraw the controversial congressional map because it was “unconstitutional.” The Republican-led state filed an appeal, in which the Supreme Court granted certiorari and halted the lower court’s order to have the map redrawn.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments last fall and many suspected the court would issue a decision before the March deadline to give lawmakers a chance to redraw the map. However, the court has yet to publish an opinion.

The lower court judges felt pressure to act quickly, given the current election cycle, and decided to keep the current map in place.

“With the primary election procedures rapidly approaching, the appeal before the Supreme Court still pending, and no remedial plan in place, the ideal must bend to the practical,” the judges wrote.

Black Americans voting,
Floridians use touch screen machines to cast their ballots November 2, 2004 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Tim Boyles/Getty Images)

Moore suggested that the Supreme Court is “playing politics.”

“They didn’t want to put their hand on the scale of this race and potentially add back a number of Democrat votes to the district,” Moore said. “So, the lower court was forced to use the current map.”

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In a statement obtained by theGrio, Leah Aden, senior counsel for the Legal Defense Fund, stated that this is “justice delayed.”

She added that the “plaintiffs have made every effort to get a decision and remedy before another election under a map that denies them their rights.”

Moore told theGrio the current map should not hamper efforts for Democrats to flip the House chamber, maintain control of the Senate and re-elect President Joe Biden.

voting booths,
A view of voting booths at the Santa Clara County registrar of voters office on October 13, 2020 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Moore is confident that he will be able to unseat Mace in November.

“We’ve got the plan and we’ve got the team to flip this seat,” Moore said. “Republicans are pulling out all stops to hold on to power as long as they can.”

This comes a day after some voting rights advocates criticized federal judges for keeping Florida’s Congressional map in place ahead of the 2024 general elections.

Voters In 14 States Head To The Polls On Super Tuesday
Fayetteville State University students get off a Black Votes Matter bus at Smith Recreation Center on March 3, 2020 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. (Photo by Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images)

Albright of Black Voters Matter told theGrio that gerrymandering cases in the U.S. have increased because voters of color are growing in size and white voters are threatened.

“They’re creating apartheid-like conditions to maintain power and to stop minority voters from deciding where resources go in the state,” Albright said.

“It’s got to stop and if the Supreme Court refuses to do it, the people have to begin to fight tooth and nail to change it,” she added.

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