COLUMBIA - Gov. Jim Hodges on Friday vetoed a Republican bill on how to redraw district lines for seats in the Legislature and the U.S. House.
Lawmakers will try Tuesday to override the Democratic governor's veto, though legislative leaders concede it's a nearly impossible task. Additional plans could be considered later in the week, but most observers expect the fight over district lines to end up in federal court.
As with many recent redistricting fights in the South, this one comes down to party and race.
"Rather than following traditional redistricting principles that would respect the rich diversity of our great state, the proposed redistricting plans divide and polarize South Carolina along racial lines," Mr. Hodges wrote to House Speaker David Wilkins.
Mr. Wilkins, a Republican, said Friday the lines were properly drawn to reflect population shifts and the state's 15 percent growth since districts were last drawn after the 1990 census.
"We just think that's cover," Mr. Wilkins said when asked about Mr. Hodges' reasons for vetoing the bill. "He never intended to let us draw these lines."
Prospects to override the veto are dim. Republicans would need votes from two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate who attend Tuesday's special meeting.
In the House, that would require 83 votes if all members are present. With 71 Republicans, 12 Democrats would have to vote for the GOP's plan for it to pass.
The situation is even worse in the Senate, where the 24 Republicans need six more votes from Democrats to get the plan to pass.
Any Democrats thinking about straying too far from the party line better be ready to pay the consequences, state Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian says.
Any legislator voting to override a veto is "too stupid to serve, and they will be beat in the primary," he said.
Mr. Hodges said he also vetoed the Republican plan to redraw the U.S. House districts because it would unnecessarily split several counties.
But Mr. Hodges' main complaint on the plan was that it failed to reflect the racial breakdown of South Carolina, which is about 30 percent black.
The bill "appears predominantly focused on limiting the number of districts in which African Americans can reasonably be expected to play a meaningful role in influencing the outcome of elections and the formation of legislative policy," Mr. Hodges wrote.
The governor was especially upset over 10 House districts and five Senate districts where, he said, the Republicans intentionally removed black voters so the districts would be less than 25 percent black.
The plan "is both unlawful under federal law and profoundly wrong as a matter of public policy," Mr. Hodges wrote. "We can do better."
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