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SC Senate appears poised to approve new districts

Redistricting-South Carolina
Jeffrey Collins/AP
South Carolina Sens. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, left, and Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, right, talk before a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on redistricting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. The full Senate expects to take up the maps during this week's special session. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

The South Carolina Senate appears poised to pass its new districts without a lot of opposition this week.

The Judiciary Committee approved the plan 22-1 Monday with the only no vote from Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey. The Edgefield Republican said he wasn't against the new maps, only that he wanted to study small changes made before the committee Monday.

The changes involved only a few precincts here and there, with the most significant switch putting all of Greenwood County in a single district.

The full Senate will likely take up the plan Tuesday because Senate rules generally require a waiting period after the bill hits the floor from committee. But the 22 votes for the maps in committee likely means the rest of the Senate is ready to go along too.

The map of the Senate's 46 districts has been less controversial than the drawing of the House's new 124 districts based on the 2020 U.S. Census data, which received final approval Monday. Both chambers are delaying U.S. House maps until they return in regular session in January.

South Carolina's lopsided growth — the state added about 500,000 people, but 24 of its 46 counties lost people — meant rural districts had to find more land area.

A district was sent to rapidly growing Charleston County from the more slowly growing Richland County.

That put Democratic Sen. Dick Harpootlian of Columbia into the district currently represented by Democratic Sen. Nikki Setzler of West Columbia. Setzler is the chamber's longest serving member, first elected in 1976.

Fourteen of the 16 districts represented by Democrats in 2021 either lost population or failed to gain people as fast as the state average. That meant many inland districts between Columbia and the coast had to cover larger areas, eventually eating up that one district near Columbia.

For example, Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto's district, anchored in Orangeburg County, was stretched north to include parts of Aiken and Lexington counties. The district lost its portion of Hampton and Colleton counties. Hutto now represents seven counties.

Districts in Horry and York counties and the Charleston region shrank in area.

The map keeps 19 mostly smaller, rural counties intact in one district, up from 11 counties in the 2010 map.

Union County and its 27,000 people is the smallest county in the state to be split into three districts. Anderson County, which is more than seven times larger, at 204,000 people, is just two districts.

Union County is split between three Republican incumbents: Sens. Danny Verdin of Laurens and Harvey Peeler of Gaffney, each of whom has been in the chamber at least two decades, and Sen. Shane Martin, a Spartanburg County Republican first elected in 2008.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.