COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ Senators debated with little progress Monday how to draw new U.S. House district lines with plans for a new U.S. House seat again taking center stage. Redistricting is a once-a-decade process needed to make sure political district lines reflect population changes revealed by the U.S. Census. South Carolina is picking up a seventh U.S. House seat _ something the Palmetto State had years ago, before population fell in 1930.
Whatever lawmakers decide, the proposed maps for South Carolina and other Southern states require federal approval under the Voting Rights Act because of their history of inequitable treatment of black voters.
For now, the Senate is working off a draft plan that would anchor that new U.S. House district in Florence and Horry counties. It also includes Darlington, Lee, Marlboro, Dillon and Marion counties, and part of Sumter county _ much of the state's Pee Dee region.
Chesterfield and Georgetown counties want into the new district, too, and that's feeding one of the two big fights on drawing lines. Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, offered a proposal like that Monday. He wanted Chesterfield County and beach areas in Georgetown County in the new 7th District.
Leatherman's plan would move the remainder of Georgetown County into the 6th District, now represented by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the House's third ranking Democrat. It also is the state's only majority black district. The plan splits Sumter County between the 5th and 6th districts.
Despite hours of debate, the Senate took no final action on that proposal before adjourning.
The Senate Judiciary Committee previously rejected proposals by the American Civil Liberties Union to create a second district with a majority of black voters. It also rejected a state Democratic Party proposal that would have instead increased black voting influence in other districts.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian has called plans being drawn up for the U.S. House as well as the state House and Senate “electoral apartheid.'' He said he expected legal action over the plans.
The second major redistricting issue involves Spartanburg County lawmakers who want to keep their county in one U.S. House district. It is split between the 4th and 5th districts in the plan now being debated. Under the current U.S. House map, all of Greenville, Spartanburg and Union counties are in the 4th District.
The Senate and House already have sent Republican Gov. Nikki Haley district maps for their 170 seats.