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SC Republican lawmakers ask court to put congressional map back into effect

South Carolina Republican state lawmakers on Thursday asked to use their congressional map for this year’s elections as the Supreme Court sits on the lawmakers’ appeal.

The lawmakers’ map is currently shelved after a lower court struck it down as a racial gerrymander, but no remedial map has been drawn as the Supreme Court reviews that decision this term.

The justices heard oral arguments in October, but despite a request to rule by Jan. 1, they have yet to hand down an opinion.

With South Carolina’s June 11 congressional primary fast approaching, the state lawmakers now have returned to the lower court, arguing the clock has run out and that their original map must be re-implemented despite it being ruled a gerrymander.

“At this juncture, the only appropriate course is to grant a partial stay and allow the 2024 elections to proceed in Enacted District 1, regardless of the Court’s view of the merits of Defendants’ appeal,” the lawmakers’ attorneys wrote in their 13-page motion.

Their map cements the GOP tilt of Rep. Nancy Mace’s (R) seat, which was a longtime red-leaning district until a Democrat narrowly pulled out an upset in 2018. Mace arrived in Congress after narrowly flipping the district back in 2020, and the new lines provide her with a more comfortable margin.

Allowing the design to stand for this year’s elections would aid Republicans in holding that seat as they aim to maintain control of the House.

A three-judge panel struck down the map in January of last year, ruling that race was the predominant factor behind shifting some 30,000 Black Charleston-area residents out of Mace’s district.

The South Carolina Republican lawmakers insist the boundaries were changed for partisan reasons, which the federal courts cannot review under Supreme Court precedent. The lawmakers’ appeal appeared to gain traction with a majority of the justices during oral arguments.

With no ruling issued yet, the state lawmakers are now citing a Supreme Court doctrine that courts should not change election rules too close to an election. That principle automatically mandates the lawmakers’ map be put back into effect, no matter the outcome at the high court, they argue.

Thursday’s motion indicated the South Carolina State Conference of the NAACP, which brought the map challenge, opposes the motion. The Hill has reached out to their legal team for comment.

South Carolina held its presidential primaries last month, but the congressional primary for both parties is scheduled for June.

“At this date, there is simply no realistic way that a remedial process could be completed in time for the 2024 election cycle, let alone by the March 16 opening of candidate filing, the April 27 commencement of absentee voting, or the June 11 primary election,” the lawmakers’ attorneys wrote.

Delaying the election, the lawmakers argued, “is unworkable and unduly burdensome on the State.”

They asked for a ruling by March 14.

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