Local lawmakers and community members are requesting a state House committee tasked with redistricting consider adjusting suggested population guidelines to ensure rural communities continue to have equal representation.

According to state redistricting guidelines, legislative districts should have substantial equality of population with a goal to eliminate the overall range of deviation from the ideal population to less than 5%.

For S.C. House districts, the ideal population is about 41,278.

The county’s loss of population to about 84,000 residents according to the 2020 Census has many concerned about the impact on the redrawing of the district lines, especially for rural counties such as Orangeburg, Calhoun and Allendale.

“I think it is critical that we look at the deviation and consider increasing the deviation to 10%,” Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, told members of the S.C. House redistricting subcommittee during a Wednesday redistricting hearing held at the Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College’s Roquemore Auditorium.

TheTandD.com: Full access for 6 months for just $1

Cobb-Hunter noted the deviation can be changed, because there are no state statutes in place that lock in the 5% deviation.

Cobb-Hunter has sponsored legislation that would codify the state’s redistricting process. She noted South Carolina is the only state without statutes to follow in the process.

She said raising the deviation would not only help Democrats, but also Republicans who serve communities that have lost population.

Currently, Orangeburg County is represented by lawmakers from four S.C. House districts: District 95, District 66, District 93 and District 91. Each district has a population below the 41,200 ideal.

Cobb-Hunter said with the total population of Orangeburg County falling, she does not see having four House members representing the county as being “realistically maintained.”

“I would suggest to you in order for that to be kept intact, there will have to be some tough decisions made,” Cobb-Hunter said. “There will be some winners and some losers.”

“I would encourage you to look at doing the right thing and encourage you to not yield to those who may whisper in your ear about retribution and revenge,” Cobb-Hunter said. “I am basing this on previous redistricting efforts.”

Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, said he wants the committee not to forget rural and small Calhoun County in redrawing lines.

Cobb-Hunter: S.C. needs changes in redistricting; lawmakers seek more public input and transparency

“When you are dealing with a small county, it is sometimes very hard to get that fair representation for that county that you may see in some larger counties,” Ott said.

He noted the county currently has one House member and two senators, with only one resident lawmaker in the county.

Ott requested that redrawing of lines keep “Calhoun County whole.”

He said splitting among districts makes it hard for any voice for the county to be heard.

Ott also requested a deviation from the ideal population when setting the lines.

Several in attendance asked the redistricting committee to consider the flaws in compiling the 2020 census to include the undercounts due to the lack of response in communities of color, lack of broadband connectivity and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers are using the latest U.S. Census data to draw maps for the 46 state Senate districts, 124 state House districts and seven U.S. House districts.

The redistricting process is required to follow both federal and state law.

Currently, the S.C. House is waiting until the final census data is published and verified before proposed redistricting maps are drawn. Lawmakers hope this will occur the first week in October.

The redistricting subcommittee will come up with a proposal that will then go before the House Judiciary Committee and then to the full House. Both the Senate and House will have to approve the plans, which the governor also must sign.

Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, requested that in redrawing district lines, consider the following:

South Carolina Senate cancels next month’s special session
  • Keep the City of Orangeburg and surrounding suburbs in one district.

Support Local Journalism

Your membership makes our reporting possible.


“House District 95 has historically kept this community whole and this must continue to ensure that this community of interest has representation in the South Carolina General Assembly,” Govan said.

With Orangeburg being one of the largest African American communities in the county, redistricting should not “dilute this community’s voting power to elect their own representative. This community of interest should be kept together to ensure representation on important matters continue.”

  • Redistricting should incorporate more of the City of Orangeburg and suburbs to make the district more compact and continuous.

Govan noted that the current population of the county of about 84,220 can be represented by two House districts.

“We believe that census is an undercount when you consider the fact and impact of COVID,” Govan said, believing the population of the county is higher. “We should not let the voting power of rural communities to be diminished by an inaccurate census.”

Govan called for the population deviation to be raised from the 5% to 10%.

  • Incumbency should be considered so that representatives and “their constituencies should not be pitted against one another, which is unnecessary and bad for the political influence of our area,” Govan said.

Govan stressed redistricting should take into account the number of educational institutions in the county and the social and economic background of the district.

“We would like to see, and I emphasize this, no retrogression in terms of that diversity and that uniqueness in terms of diluting the House district,” Govan said, noting he wants the history of the district to be remembered when redrawing the lines.

Holly Hill Mayor William Johnson requested lawmakers keep in mind small rural communities in the redistricting process

“‘We really feel that we are undercounted, especially Holly Hill as I look at the numbers,” Johnson said, noting the census reveals Holly Hill’s population is listed at about 1,150 rather than the 1,300 he believes is accurate. “It tells me there has been an undercount. I think there has to be some consideration to the deviations.”

Johnson also requested that redistricting be fair and not discriminatory based on race, so “we can all be represented.’

In addition to her desire to see the population deviation to be adjusted, Cobb-Hunter also expressed concerns about news reports that suggest there is an effort on the part of some Republicans in the legislature to “pack as many Blacks as possible into the 6th Congressional District so that Nancy Mace in the 1st Congressional District would be in a stronger position to win re-election.

“I would encourage the committee to resist the temptation to do that for this reason,” Cobb-Hunter said. “The fastest growing areas in South Carolina are along the coast. It is unfair to voters of color for any more voters of color to be packed into the 6th Congressional District.”

Cobb-Hunter said with the state’s growing population, there is an opportunity for the the seven congressional districts to be “truly representative of South Carolina.”

Cobb-Hunter said she has been informed that Congressman James Clyburn did not ask for the remap of his district and that the General Assembly chose to pack the district.

“If that is indeed the case … I would strongly encourage you to revisit the makeup of the 6th Congressional District to look at any kind of protection,” Cobb-Hunter said. “But more importantly to look at communities of interest and continuity.”

Orangeburg resident and NAACP President Barbara Williams said she hopes redistricting will provide “voters of color” the same opportunities to elect “fair and preferred candidates as pertains to our congressional district.”

Williams said redistricting should ensure that leaders can be elected who understand the needs of the communities they live in. For example, she said Medicaid expansion and educational system improvements are important for people who live in the Orangeburg area.

Orangeburg resident Christopher Fox said there are about half a million registered but inactive Black voters who do not have a reason to vote because of lack of representation for their specific interests.

“The Fair Act … gives us the opportunity to redraw the lines to engage the electorate and to give them a reason to come out,” Fox said, requesting lines be redrawn to increase competition.

“South Carolina’s elections are among the least competitive,” Fox said. “Non-competitive elections breed corruption that we have seen.”

Orangeburg resident Phillip Ford, who identified himself as a part of the South Carolina United for Justice and Equality Coalition, requested the committee consider LGBTQ+ people when redrawing district lines and greater inclusivity of LGBTQ+ representation in the General Assembly.

He noted there are about 137,000 LGBTQ+ individuals in the state whose interests have not been listened to when drawing districts.

“The majority of South Carolinians believe that LGBTQ+ equality is needed yet we see discriminatory bills year after year from politicians that truly don’t represent the will of their districts,” Ford said. “I believe that is a symptom of safe districts from fringe politicians.”

Ford said district lines should respect communities of interest and ensure that LBGTQ + people will be able to elect a representative of their choosing and that election districts should not be drawn to reduce competitiveness.

Written testimony may also be submitted in paper form at the meeting, by email to redistricting@schouse.gov, or by mail to: House Judiciary Committee (512 Blatt) Attn: Redistricting, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, SC 29211

Virtual testimony may be offered at public hearings scheduled for Sept. 28 and Oct. 4. To sign up to give virtual testimony, email virtualtestimony@schouse.gov.

Emails must be received 24 hours prior to the hearing and indicate which hearing the person wants to participate in.

For more information, visit: www.redistricting.schouse.gov. Questions should be emailed to redistricting@schouse.gov or call 803-734-3120.

#pu-email-form-daily-email-article { clear: both; background-color: #fff; color: #222; background-position: bottom; background-repeat: no-repeat; padding: 15px 20px; margin-bottom: 40px; border-top: 4px solid rgba(0,0,0,.8); border-bottom: 1px solid rgba(0,0,0,.2); display: none; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article, #pu-email-form-daily-email-article p { font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, “Segoe UI”, Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif, “Apple Color Emoji”, “Segoe UI Emoji”, “Segoe UI Symbol”; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article h1 { font-size: 24px; margin: 15px 0 5px 0; font-family: “serif-ds”, Times, “Times New Roman”, serif; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .lead { margin-bottom: 5px; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .email-desc { font-size: 16px; line-height: 20px; margin-bottom: 5px; opacity: 0.7; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article form { padding: 10px 30px 5px 30px; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .disclaimer { opacity: 0.5; margin-bottom: 0; line-height: 100%; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .disclaimer a { color: #222; text-decoration: underline; } #pu-email-form-daily-email-article .email-hammer { border-bottom: 3px solid #222; opacity: .5; display: inline-block; padding: 0 10px 5px 10px; margin-bottom: -5px; font-size: 16px; } @media (max-width: 991px) { #pu-email-form-daily-email-article form { padding: 10px 0 5px 0; } }

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>