COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's GOP-dominated Legislature on Tuesday approved a U.S. House redistricting plan that creates a new 7th District that Republicans expect they'll be able to win in 2012.
Final approval came with a 24-16 vote in the Senate that broke mostly along party lines and frustrated Democrats, who now hope the proposal fails to meet federal voting rights standards as it is scrutinized by the U.S. Justice Department. The House earlier had approved the proposal with a 75-33 vote after rejecting alternative plans in the one-day special session.
At stake is who represents the Palmetto State in Washington and the growing clout for a Republican Party that dominates politics here.
Redistricting is required every decade to make sure district lines reflect population changes. Because of population growth, South Carolina picked up a seventh seat in Congress.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate embraced plans to put that new district in the state's northeastern corner, making it a safe bet that a Republican would be added to the five already representing South Carolina in Washington.
Those leaders' carefully crafted plans were scuttled last month in the Senate by 10 upstart Republicans who, working with the Senate's Democratic Caucus, won a fight to put the new district near the coast, in an area stretching from Georgetown County to Jasper County.
Tuesday's vote overturned all of that and brought nearly all those upstart Republicans back in line. Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said they had little choice.
"It's either this plan or no plan," Martin said. Without a plan approved by the legislators, a panel of federal judges would draw the lines.
That was enough to persuade Republican Sen. Tom Davis, of Beaufort, to support the plan he helped to defeat in June.
"I would opt for the devil I know rather than the devil I don't know," Davis said.
As legislators debated, a crowd of people from Horry, Florence and Georgetown counties watched. They said they wanted the new district to represent them.