(The Center Square) – Nearly 5.12 million people live in South Carolina, about 11% more than a decade ago, but the growth was not enough for the Palmetto State to add an eighth U.S. House seat until at least the 2030s.
Among 47 states that saw population increases between 2010-20, South Carolina’s 10.7% growth rate outpaced the nation’s 7.35% rate and ranked 10th among states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The 2020 census apportionment data, which was released Monday, indicated South Carolina is now the nation’s 23rd most populous state, moving past Alabama by adding 493,041 new residents and increasing its population from 4.63 million in 2010 to 5,118,425 as of April 1, 2020.
South Carolina’s population has grown by at least 10% for five consecutive decades, but it is still among 37 states that neither will gain or lose congressional representation as a result of the 2020 census.
Monday’s release was the first step in the congressional reapportionment process. The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years to update the nation’s population for resource allocation and to redistribute the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The U.S. Constitution requires every state has at least one seat in the U.S. House. The remaining 385 seats are distributed by a population-based formula based on populations documented in decennial censuses.
All seven congressional districts, 124 state House districts and 46 state Senate districts in South Carolina are redrawn by legislative redistricting committees after decennial censuses and approved by the South Carolina Legislature in simple majority votes as normal statutes.
Legislative district lines drawn by South Carolina lawmakers are subject to the governor’s approval. A two-thirds vote of each chamber is required to override a veto.
The U.S. population rose 7.4% between 2010-20 to more than 331 million residents, the second-slowest population growth rate between censuses in U.S. history, the Census Bureau said.
Population and congressional representation during the 2010s continued a decades-long shift to the south and west, the data confirmed.
Six states gained seats: Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon added one seat, and Texas added two. Seven states lost seats: California, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Illinois.
South Carolina’s population grew enough in 2010 to add a seventh seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. It is held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach. The state’s congressional districts each represented about 664,000 voters in 2010, the Census Bureau said.
The Census Bureau’s 2020 apportionment results indicated each South Carolina congressional district will represent 732,102 residents. The national district average is 761,169, according to the Census Bureau.
How to allocate those voters across the state’s seven congressional and 170 state legislative districts now becomes the focus of redistricting – and potential political hijinks and gerrymandering.
Because South Carolina’s redistricting process is orchestrated by lawmakers, it is among 35 states at high risk of gerrymandering, according to a report by the nonprofit RepresentUs.
South Carolina lawmakers adopted redistricting guidelines in 2011 that recommended all districts be contiguous and "attempt to preserve communities of interest and cores of incumbents' existing districts."
The 2011 guidelines recommended districts "adhere to county, municipal and voting precinct boundary lines,” but gives lawmakers vast discretion in a state where Republicans hold a trifecta of control in the Legislature and governor’s office.
“South Carolina law does not require the legislature to hold public hearings on redistricting,” RepresentUs’ report said, although it notes after the 2010 census, the state Senate’s redistricting subcommittee held 10 public hearings and provided a website.
Lawmakers and advocates have attempted to establish an independent redistricting commission over the years, including 2020’s House Bill 3054, filed by Rep. Gary Clary, R-Pickens. It never got a hearing.