COLUMBIA — A panel of federal judges is considering whether South Carolina state lawmakers can be forced to testify about how they determined the new lines for U.S. House districts.

Lawyers for House Speaker Bobby Harrell and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell say the Charleston Republicans are protected by legislative privilege and should not have to talk about the redistricting process.

The GOP-dominated Legislature approved new U.S. House district lines last year, including the state’s new 7th Congressional district along the coast. Six black voters sued, claiming what they called the race-based plan creates “voting apartheid.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has said it will not object to the new lines. The three-judge panel is supposed to rule this week.