WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court is taking up a new congressional redistricting case, this time from South Carolina, that could shape the fight for partisan control of the House of Representatives.
Arguments taking place at the high court on Wednesday will focus on a coastal district that is held by Republican Rep. Nancy Mace. In January, a lower court ordered the district redrawn after finding that Republicans who control the state Legislature improperly moved Democratic-leaning Black voters into another district to make the seat safer for Mace in 2022.
When Mace first won election in 2020, she edged Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Cunningham by 1%, under 5,400 votes. In 2022, following redistricting driven by the 2020 census results, Mace won reelection by 14%. She is one of eight right-flank Republicans who voted to oust Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
Democrats could have a shot at picking up the seat in 2024 if the district is redrawn.
With Republicans holding a thin margin in the U.S. House, any change to competitive districts has a chance to alter the balance of power after the 2024 elections.
Democrats seem likely to gain a seat in Alabama following a Supreme Court decision in June that led to a court-ordered redistricting. The state's new map will give Alabama two congressional districts where Black voters comprise a substantial portion of the electorate. A similar pending Louisiana case could lead to a second mostly Black district there, too.
In South Carolina, Black voters wouldn't be as numerous in a redrawn district. But combined with a substantial set of Democratic-leaning white voters, Democrats could be competitive in the reconfigured district.
Lawyers for the state argue that partisan politics, not race, and a population boom in coastal areas explain the congressional map.
Civil rights groups challenged the map in federal court and won a ruling from a unanimous three-judge panel in January.
"Black votes were used as political puzzle pieces to insulate the Republicans' hold on power," said Mitchell Brown, senior counsel for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
The lower court put its order on hold to allow the state to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said in January that "we don't need to draw anything until five members of the Supreme Court say we have to."
Both sides want a decision by Jan. 1 so that the state can use a congressional map in the 2024 elections that complies with the Supreme Court's ruling.