The public's advice about redrawing South Carolina's congressional and legislative districts was about as diverse as those who doled it out.
Sixteen residents, politicians and other community leaders spoke to the state Senate Redistricting Subcommittee hearing Thursday to tell lawmakers how they should approach this once-a-decade task.
The hearing, held at Trident Technical College in North Charleston, marked the 10th and final one held across the state. On Wednesday, the committee will meet in Columbia to begin the redistricting task.
Dewitt Williams, 92, encouraged lawmakers to ensure the new districts are politically competitive. "I'm against so-called safe districts," he said.
Jonathan Hoffman followed Williams and echoed his thoughts. "They shouldn't be incumbent-protection devices," he said. "The more competitive, the better."
Pete Anderson of Edisto Beach urged senators to put Colleton County in one Senate district. "We have three senators, and none of them live in Colleton County," he said.
While trying to have Senate districts follow county lines might seem like an admirable goal, Dorchester County Council Chairman Larry Hargett said having Senate districts that cross Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties helps keep Lowcountry senators attuned to the region's needs.
Some speakers criticized the state's existing legislative districts as being racially gerrymandered, but Gwendolyn Robinson of Mount Pleasant told lawmakers, "There has to be race-consciousness. There has to be an awareness that we are all members of this state."
Others suggested lawmakers consider drawing districts that are not divided between television media markets.
After the hearing, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, said the addition of a seventh congressional district will guarantee a major change on the map. He said the subcommittee next will try to settle on some objective guidelines that it can use to draw districts so the process doesn't get overly political.
That objective criteria could help the state beat back any court challenge, McConnell said.
Kaye Koonce, an executive committeewoman with the state Democratic Party, told lawmakers the process "is likely to end up in court, despite your very best efforts."
A similar House panel, which will work on both congressional districts and the state House seats, plans a public hearing at 5 p.m. April 14 at 500 N. Main St. in Summerville.
The state plans to complete redistricting before next year's primary and general elections.
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