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Monday
Apr172017

S.C. Lawmakers Polled on Gerrymandered Districts

S.C. lawmakers soon will be put on the spot about gerrymandered districts.

A former Democratic political operative on Monday launched an effort to ask every S.C. legislator whether he or she supports creating an independent commission to draw the state’s political districts.

Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature currently control that district-drawing process, which allows politicians to choose their voters, rather than voters to elect their elected representatives. As a result, races in most districts are so one-sided that party primaries typically decide elections.

The poll’s responses will be posted publicly on a website as they roll in.

“A significant number of legislators in both parties ... support independent redistricting,” said Tyler Jones, a former spokesman for the S.C. House Democratic Caucus who organized the Fair Lines for South Carolina Project. “Our project will simply try to determine who supports the idea, who doesn’t, and who remains undecided. 

“After the results are in, we’ll know how all legislators currently stand and how many votes are needed in both chambers to pass an independent redistricting bill.”

Earlier this year, S.C. Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, filed a bill calling an independent commission to draw new districts, based on once-a-decade census findings, saying it would take “politics out of the process.”

That proposal has gone nowhere.

Critics say letting lawmakers control the redistricting process leads to fewer competitive races as legislators strike deals to protect incumbents by drawing districts that favor one political party over another.

Last November, for example, voters in just 28 percent of the state’s legislative districts had a choice of more than one candidate on the ballot. Critics say the current redistricting system discourages would-be candidates from running for office and weakens the democratic process.

Jones said the polling idea stemmed from Twitter interactions with GOP legislators who, “to his surprise, pledged their support for independent redistricting.”

Jones and a team of three S.C. college students were set Monday to begin polling legislators by phone, email and social media.

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