A state Senate committee began work today on the once-a-decade process of redistricting state House, Senate and congressional districts, outlining the state's population growth and approving a series of public hearings.
Lawmakers must redraw state and federal political districts based on the most recent Census data to ensure districts have roughly equal population. The state still is waiting on detailed county Census data -- expected in the next two weeks -- but state data shows South Carolinas population grew by 15.3 percent over the past decade to a total of 4.6 million.
That growth means the state will add a seventh U.S. House seat.
Speculation has focused on that district being centered, most likely, on the Grand Strand. However, a district could be drawn in the Spartanburg area. There also could be pressure to create a second African-American majority district in the state, which is roughly 30 percent black.
Most observers expect any redistricting plan approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature to be challenged in court. But Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, says lawmakers could reach a court-free agreement.
"Many observers take for granted a cynical and partisan redistricting process," McConnell said. "I don't believe it needs to be that way."
The Senate has set up a redistricting Web site at SCStateHouse.gov. The panel also agreed to eight public hearings, and may add additional meetings in Sumter and/or Orangeburg. All meetings will begin at 6:30, will last about two hours and will held at local technical schools.
The dates are:
March 28, Myrtle Beach
March 29, Aiken
March 30, Rock Hill
March 31, Greenville, at the County Council building
April 4, Beaufort
April 5, Columbia, at the Gressette Senate office building
April 6, Florence
April 7, Charleston