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  • Sen. Mia McLeod

What You Need to Know About Redistricting

Most legislators don’t care if the district mapping process is fair as long as

the new lines ensure their own re-election.

This unfortunate fact is true even when the process unfairly affects people who look just

like them.

Mia McLeod was new to the S.C. House in 2011, when it was time to adjust districts in

the wake of the 2010 census.

Like most of us, she had not previously considered how district lines were drawn, but

she learned quickly that her district—a “swing” district—would be targeted when it came

time to redraw the lines after the 2010 census.

Seasoned colleagues who were not planning to run for re-election quietly advised

McLeod to be vigilant as the redistricting process unfolded.

On the surface, “safe” districts might sound like a good idea: pack a district with likeminded people to ensure a candidate’s re-election. But McLeod rightly found the idea

offensive: “I can represent people whether they look and think like me or not,” she


What McLeod learned about the redistricting process shocked and dismayed her: the

majority party gets to draw both state legislature and U.S. Congressional maps and does

so in a way that ensures not only the preservation of that majority but the erasure of

other voices.

In South Carolina, that means diminishing the voices of about forty percent of our

citizens by drawing lines that cluster most of them in a small number of districts.

Fair redistricting would use each new census to create districts reflecting the diversity of

our state and fostering competitive elections.

Why is that a good idea?

With fair districts, elected representatives would have to listen to their

constituents and work on their behalf or risk losing re-election.

Instead, the system we have in South Carolina allows the majority party to create “safe”

homogeneous districts where representatives are practically ensured of re-election, even

when they rarely (or ever) show up for votes or take time to listen to their constituents.

Such a process undermines the core of our democratic election process by creating an

environment that both stifles citizens’ voices and fails to hold elected officials


Having researched the process, McLeod received permission to share information with

her House colleagues, but the materials she had printed to distribute mysteriously


Even representatives of majority minority districts—the people who should most

appreciate the need for fairer representation—privately asked McLeod to drop the issue

of reforming the process out of a self-interested desire to be easily re-elected.

South Carolina needs an independent commission to redraw district lines after the 2020

census—lines that will be in place for the next decade. This is the year that our

legislature must pass a bill to ensure a fair process.

Several bills are pending, but unless legislators feel the heat from constituents to pass

them, they will die.

Without an independent commission, self-interested legislators will draw new maps

quietly and behind closed doors, keeping the process hidden and off the public radar.

Don’t wait until you enter the voting booth one day—as some of McLeod’s own

neighbors did—to discover that the person you planned to support is no longer in your


Contact your representatives now—and repeatedly—until they pass a bill ensuring a fair

and transparent process.

Nancy Tuten

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