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Plan to radically changes US House districts in SC proposed

Redistricting-South Carolina
Jeffrey Collins/AP
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 28, 2021, file photo, people look over the current South Carolina Senate districts at a public meeting by a Senate subcommittee on redistricting, in Sumter, S.C. South Carolina Republican legislative leaders want to toss a judge from a lawsuit over redistricting plans, arguing in papers filed Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022 that the jurist can't fairly consider the case in part because of prior legal work on such cases. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins, File)

Just days before the South Carolina General Assembly appears ready to finish drawing new U.S. House districts, state Senators have been asked to consider an alternative that would make radical changes favorable to Democrats in the state's seven congressional districts.

South Carolina currently sends six Republicans and one Democrat to the U.S. House.

This latest map would create two districts where majorities picked Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, and a third in which Trump won by less than six percentage points.

The Republican map is "racially abhorrent and inconsistent with the law, the Constitution and morality," said Democratic Rep. Dick Harpootlian, who proposed the second map. He said his version is fair, equitable and creates districts that give more voters a chance to have representatives that match their beliefs

The full South Carolina House is likely Wednesday to approve its version of a U.S. House map that would likely keep a lock on the status quo, with few changes other than shifting the coastal 1st District away from some of the Black voters who helped elect a Democrat there for a term. Those voters would find themselves in the 6th District, where a majority of minority voters has sent Rep. Jim Clyburn to Congress since 1993 That GOP plan prompted the strongest opposition from Democrats since redistricting work started.

The Senate committee studying redistricting will now have two maps to consider when it meets on Thursday — a proposal similar to the one before the full House as well as the new one released late Tuesday. They must meet the bipartisan goals passed last year of keeping like-minded communities together as they create districts of roughly equal population.

South Carolina added about 500,000 people between 2010 and 2020 and that growth was lopsided along the coast, Interstate 85 and the region just south of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The biggest changes in the maps proposed by Republicans would put more white voters into the 1st District, where first-term U.S. House member Nancy Mace represents people from Charleston to Hilton Head Island.

The latest map released late Tuesday would shift the 4th District to put the city of Greenville, where all three of the district's representatives have lived for the past 100 years, into the 3rd District. It would move Florence, which was paired with Myrtle Beach when lawmakers drew the newly added 7th District in 2010, into the 5th District, still anchored by Rock Hill.

The latest map's 2nd District would still be anchored by Aiken and Lexington, but instead of extending into other areas around Columbia, it would reach north to Abbeville County, Union County and parts of Laurens County. That displeases 2nd District Rep. Joe Wilson, who posted his opposition on Twitter within hours, saying the other Senate plan has "minimal line changes to benefit constituents with consistency. " It was the first time Wilson has posted about the General Assembly's redistricting deliberations.

Clyburn's 6th District would remain drawn to elect a minority in the latest map, but instead of stretching from Columbia to Charleston, it would go southeast and southwest from Columbia to pick up significant rural minority populations. The 7th District would include Myrtle Beach and extend to areas well north of Charleston in Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

The General Assembly approved maps for state House and Senate seats in December and have already been sued by civil rights groups over the House maps.

Candidate filing for the new districts is set to start in mid-March, with primaries scheduled for June.