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New bill aims to raise awareness about redistricting in SC

This article was originally published September 8th on ABC News 4 and can be found here.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) — Redistricting in South Carolina happens every 10 years after the U.S. Census data is released.

Lawmakers have the opportunity to redraw voting district lines. However, while there are guidelines in place, the process can become very political.

“This system has created safe Republican seats, safe Democrat seats, we’ve done this through packing minorities into districts,” South Carolina Senator Mike Fanning said about gerrymandering.

As of now there are no written laws in place outlining the guidelines for redistricting. Some representatives say this needs to change.

“Right now the process is exclusively done by the elected officials,” Fanning said.

But Fanning, along with Democratic state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, is now introducing legislation that they hope will change that.

It is called the FAIR act, and the purpose of the bill is to give more public input into the process of redistricting and allow for guidelines to be put into law.

“What we are proposing is that people pick the politician, rather than the politician pick the people,” Cobb-Hunter said.

Fanning feels the public does not have an adequate amount of notice for input in the current redistricting process, allowing representatives to draw districts that are “safe seats.”

He’s hoping that this bill will change that.

“This specific legislation shines the light that we don’t have anything in the code of laws that govern the process that we’re about to do,” he said. “And by shining that light, we’re hoping to increase participation in these meetings that are occurring beginning in the House tonight.”

We reached out to Republican Representative Chris Murphy about the redistricting process and he had this to say:

“I can assure you that the South Carolina House of Representatives takes very seriously our responsibility to the citizens of South Carolina to adopt a constitutionally sound redistricting plan that protects and preserves the voting rights of all citizens.”

But gaining support for this bill hasn’t been easy for the two representatives. In fact, their outlook on getting the bill passed by the time the South Carolina Legislature reconvenes in June is very slim.

“Let me be very clear, we have absolutely no expectation that this legislation is going to pass,” Cobb-Hunter said.

So if the bill is not going to pass, then why bring it up now?

The lawmakers say that it will at least get the topic out in the open by the time the next redrawing of districts comes around.

The first public hearing for input on redistricting is being held tonight in Myrtle Beach. You can learn more at another public hearing in North Charleston City Hall from 6-8 p.m. September 15.

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