Sellers, Hutto get early say in redistricting

2011-05-15T03:30:00Z Sellers, Hutto get early say in redistrictingBy PHIL SARATA, T&D Staff Writer The Times and Democrat
May 15, 2011 3:30 am  • 

After most state legislators head home, many weary from dealing with the budget, two local lawmakers will be knee deep in maps and Census data.

Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, is a member of the South Carolina House Election Laws subcommittee responsible for drawing new lines for the chamber's 124 districts.

"It will be a long summer," Sellers said. "It is a complicated process, but we are excited about it.

"It's not about me but ensuring that, 10 years from now, the constituents in my district and those across South Carolina have the best representation possible."

Determining where the lines will go is the responsibility of Sellers' group and the Senate Redistricting subcommittee, of which state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, is a member. Each subcommittee will also draw congressional district plans, including creation of South Carolina's seventh district.

According to 2010 Census, every local House district had either modest gains or lost population and both area Senate districts lost population. Sellers said the overall state population increase means the median number for each House district is 37,301 residents, although the final number can vary plus or minus 2.5 percent.

"Nine times out of 10, we will see these districts adding some new constituencies," Sellers said. There will be some new faces but not a lot.

"Everyone should realize that Orangeburg, Bamberg, Calhoun and Barnwell are very powerful counties, and understand how important they are to this debate. We will hopefully all have an influence on the process."

In 2000, the median House district population was 32,354, and 87,217 for Senate districts. The new Senate median is 100,552.

The congressional district median is 660,767. By federal law, each congressional district must contain the same number of residents with no variance.

Highlighting where areas of consensus and debate exist, staff will present the Senate Redistricting subcommittee a proposed plan the group may or may not accept. The process begins anew with the full Judiciary Committee. It will recommend redistricting plans for the full Senate to debate.

Hutto said staff could come back as early as this week with its initial update.

"The Senate agreed to a variance of plus or minus 5 percent," Hutto said. "Both my district and Sen. (John) Matthews' district are under the median, even with the variation. We will both have to pick up population.

"It's logical that both would shift a little to the east, where the growth has been, possibly Colleton, Hampton and Dorchester counties rather than Aiken or Calhoun."

The House will come back June 14-July 1 to consider the plans submitted by the House Judiciary Committee.

Sellers describes legislators' redistricting work as "a juiced up kindergarten class" because it only occurs once every 10 years.

"We will have a proposed map by the first of June," Sellers said. "We haven't had a subcommittee on the maps yet.

"The House has its own statisticians and demographers on staff to do this. It's still very much up in the air."

Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, said most of the growth has occurred in the Upstate, around Beaufort and in Horry County.

"From what I surmise, it is looking more like the new congressional district may be drawn along the coast and the Pee Dee area," Govan said. "The preliminary drawings I've seen also indicate there will be some realignment in the existing six congressional seats."

Conceding nobody has a firm idea at this point, House Minority Leader Rep. Harry Ott, D-St. Matthews, feels there won't be drastic changes.

"I like my district as it is, and I still expect it'll have parts of Orangeburg and Lexington counties," Ott said. "It depends on which direction it takes. The idea is to hold onto what you have and add onto that."

Whatever redistricting plan legislators ultimately approve, the potential for legal challenges always remains. The 2001 General Assembly plan was vetoed by then-Gov. Jim Hodges. Lawmakers overrode the veto. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel later ordered a redistricting plan for the House, Senate and Congress in March 2002.

Citing a need for another minority congressional district, Sellers said there are a lot of concerns.

"I want to make sure we don't split precincts, with voters from different districts in the same precinct," Sellers said. "The largest concern for me is making sure our districts are competitive.

"South Carolina is a primary state. In order to gain office, you have to really focus and win during the primaries. There are not many competitive November elections, and I want us to have them."

Contact the writer: psarata@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5540.

Copyright 2016 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(2) Comments

  1. Hambone
    Report Abuse
    Hambone - May 15, 2011 10:47 am
    Any change that gets rid of Clyburn suits me!!!
  2. dirtpoor
    Report Abuse
    dirtpoor - May 15, 2011 10:22 am
    Just put Clarendon and Orangeburg County in with Lexington, Aiken, and Barnwell.
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