Both redistricting plans will shift Congressional balance of power from Charleston

A key argument used by advocates of the Senate-passed version of the Seventh Congressional District is that it allows the region’s other coastal counties to circumvent the long-time historical dominance of Charleston County in the region’s Congressional races.

While analysis of voting trends generally supports this claim, it also shows that the outcome of both the proposed Congressional redistricting mplans could accomplish this objective, a point which has been overlooked by those touting the merits of the Senate-passed plan. In looking at GOP primary numbers from recent primary elections, both the current compromise plan and the Senate-passed version would give the smaller coastal counties of Beaufort, Berkeley and Dorchester a decent opportunity to elect a coastal member of Congress from outside of Charleston County.

The Charleston area boundaries in the compromise plan are essentially unchanged from the current Congressional boundaries, so the numbers should be pretty close between the current lines and the proposed ones in the compromise plan.

As the First District in the compromise plan and the Seventh District in the Senate plan would generally have a Republican lean, the deciding electoral contest for either should – in most cases – be the Republican primary. This being the case, it’s worth looking at recent numbers and voting trends to try to predict what could happen next year.

The victory of Henry Brown in the 2000 GOP primary for the First Congressional District was the first sign of these shifting trends. Brown, a lifetime Berkeley County resident, built a base in the North Area communities of Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, defeating long-time Charleston resident Buck Limehouse. This race ended the long-time streak of Charleston residents holding the seat. While current First District Congressman Tim Scott resided in Charleston County, at the time of his Congressional bid, he represented a State House seat which was two-thirds in Berkeley County.

Over the last ten years, Charleston County’s share of the vote in First District GOP primaries has been declining steadily as voter roles have grown faster elsewhere in the district (a trend which has been discussed before on this blog). In 2000, Charleston County Republicans cast 59.7% of the First District primary votes cast. That share declined to 57.4% in 2002 and then to just over 54% in the hotly-contested 2010 primary. Berkeley County’s share remained roughly the same in 2000 and 2010, while Dorchester’s share rose from 15.2 to 21.6% in 2010.

If the 2010 primary vote counts from Beaufort County (the overwhelming majority of its GOP primary voters would be placed in the compromise plan's First District) and Colleton’s Edisto Beach precinct (the only significant precinct which is placed in the in the compromise plan’s First) is added to the totals from the B-C-D Charleston area counties, Charleston’s share of the total falls to 41.2%. Beaufort would comprise roughly 21.7%, Berkeley roughly 19.1% and Dorchester 16.8% - a roughly even split of the non-Charleston primary electorate. Thus an incumbent or GOP nominee who focused upon Charleston would find it difficult to win.

In the Senate-passed plan, Beaufort, Berkeley and Dorchester would provide the lion’s share of GOP primary votes in the proposed Seventh District, with a roughly even three-way split of primary voters. In adding up the votes cast in the 2010 Governor’s race, Beaufort County voters cast roughly 26% of primary votes, Berkeley 29% and Dorchester 23%, with about 22% of the vote coming from other counties in the proposed district. Comparing other recent years shows roughly the same vote shares.

Either way, these numbers and the shifting population growth trends along the coast suggest that those coastal counties which have long been feeling shut out by Charleston County will have increasingly greater electoral clout in the years to come.

1 Response to "Both redistricting plans will shift Congressional balance of power from Charleston"

  1. Anonymous 28/7/11 00:08
    all rinos like you do is lie lie lie!!!

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