COLUMBIA -- The U.S. Justice Department has decided that it will not oppose South Carolina's redrawing of state Senate election district lines, state Senate leaders said Tuesday.
The decision -- which Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell said he learned from a Monday letter from Justice officials -- means that that the 46 districts may now be lawfully implemented. However, there are already plans to challenge them in court.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, a top lawyer who has handled similar cases in the past, said Tuesday he planned in the next two weeks to file a lawsuit challenging the validity of both the state House and Senate district lines.
"That will allow the process to go forward," Harpootlian told The Associated Press Tuesday.
Because of South Carolina's growth in the past decade, the population of each of the 46 Senate districts has increased to approximately 100,551 people, McConnell, R-Charleston, said.
In September, Justice Department officials questioned plans drawn by the South Carolina Senate for its districts, asking specifically about District 17, which now serves voters in Chester, Fairfield, Union and York counties. The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that the district could be drawn with a black majority, but the state Senate rejected that argument.
The Justice Department sought details on precinct-by-precinct voting tallies for state and federal offices dating to 2006 that included candidates' race as well as voter demographics.