Politics

How Fast Can You Put South Carolina Back Together?

Slate’s weekly puzzle to save democracy.

Next year, state lawmakers will redraw the Congressional district maps based on the 2020 census, a process mandated by the Constitution. In anticipation of this new redistricting cycle, Slate is revamping our gerrymander puzzle game from 2013 as part of our Who Counts? initiative. We’ll be releasing new puzzles over the upcoming weeks, highlighting the worst and weirdest gerrymanders in the country. Find out how quickly you can put these states back together and learn everything that’s at stake in the next round of redistricting.

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South Carolina’s 6th District is a straightforward racial gerrymander, a majority-minority district that serves two purposes. First, it means that black voters (who are overwhelmingly Democratic) can elect a black representative (invariably a Democrat). Increasing minority representation in Congress was a key goal of the Voting Rights Act. At the same time, racial gerrymandering allows Republicans to pack black voters into a single district, allowing them to keep other districts majority-white and safely Republican. These dual benefits—one for nonwhite Democratic representatives, another for the GOP—have led both parties to tolerate race-based redistricting in some states.

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The 6th District encompasses majority-black areas around Charleston and Columbia, as well as the state’s historical black belt. This district is a relic of the 1990s, when Southern Republicans joined with black Democrats to create majority-minority districts for mutual gain. For most of this decade, Republicans held the state’s six other congressional districts. But in 2018, Democrat Joe Cunningham pulled off a major upset by winning the 1st District, which stretches along the coast and includes Charleston. Unless Democrats somehow seize a legislative chamber in 2020—basically unimaginable—redistricting consultants will likely concoct a plan to dilute suburban votes after the 2020 census and turn the district red again.

Was this one too easy? Try the rest of our gerrymander puzzles here.

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