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South Carolina government and politics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

South Carolina Government
Seal of South Carolina.svg
Formation1789; 231 years ago (1789)
Founding documentSouth Carolina Constitution
JurisdictionState of South Carolina
Legislative branch
LegislatureGeneral Assembly
Meeting placeState House
Executive branch
LeaderGovernor of South Carolina
AppointerElected At Large
HeadquartersState House
Judicial branch
CourtSupreme Court
SeatColumbia, SC

South Carolina government and politics covers the three different branches of government, as well as the state constitution, law enforcement agencies, federal representation, state finances, and state taxes.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ North Carolina and South Carolina Compared
  • ✪ Old South City, New South Revival Political Leadership in Charleston, South Carolina


North Carolina and South Carolina Two bordering states, along the East Coast of these United States. Both in the American South. Talladega Nights clip: Well the teacher asked me, what was the capital of North Carolina? I said Washington, D.C. Bingo! Nice! She said "no, you're wrong." I said "you've got a lumpy butt." I'm just so proud of you. The capitol of North Carolina is Raleigh, kid. Anyway, let's just start with the question why are there two Carolinas? Why’d they have to be all separate and stuff? So let’s start with some history. Many Native American tribes lived in what is today the Carolinas at the time of European arrival. There were dozens of Algonquian-speaking tribes in the east, and further inland, in the west, there were a few Siouan and Iroquoian-speaking tribes. The Spanish and French were the first Europeans to settle the area, but they didn’t make it too long. The Native Americans drove them out. And then, in 1629, an English dude named Sir Robert Heath claimed part of the area guessed it...England, calling it the Province of Carolana. But due to the hostile Natives, the malaria and smallpox, and crazy pirates like Blackbeard going up and down the coast, Heath never colonized the area. Later, King Charles II let eight rich English dudes take over what was now called the Province of Carolina, to repay them for helping him become King. Charles II wanted the area as a buffer zone between the colonies of the north and Spanish Florida to the south. So when these eight dudes controlled Carolina between 1663 and 1729, they constantly fought, and had a hard time controlling the giant area anyway. The settlements in the north were so far away from the settlements of the south, after all. In 1669, Carolina became two provinces to try to solve this, the Albemarle province in the north and Clarendon province in the south. In 1712 they just went ahead and became two separate colonies. But really, historically the colonies have had much more in common than they have had differences. Both were two of the original 13 colonies, and both did not hesitate to rebel against the British during the American Revolution after Britain starting taxing the heck out of them. Both remained mostly rural after becoming states, relying on agriculture to drive their economies. And that agriculture relied heavily on slave labor. This slave labor helped several planters in the eastern, lowland areas of both states to become filthy rich as they produced lots of indigo, rice, tobacco, and especially cotton. More than half of farmers in both states, however, did not own slaves, and were self sufficient. They had small farms, and the ones who struggled the most tended to be in the west towards the mountains. During the Civil War, of course both North and South Carolina seceded from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America, but South Carolina was the very first state of all of them to secede. Also, for decades, South Carolina had leaders like John Calhoun who were much more outspoken about seceding and just talked a lot of trash in general about the North and them wanting to take away state’s rights (i.e. slavery). After the the Confederates lost the Civil War, both states were readmitted into the Union within days of each other in July 1868. Since both states had relied so much on slave labor before the war, their economies now both sucked now that slavery was illegal. It was an extremely difficult adjustment for everyone involved. After the Reconstruction era, it was the Jim Crow era in both Carolinas, where laws discriminating against blacks and promoting segregation were the norm. The progress that African Americans in the two states made during Reconstruction was halted for decades until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. But of the two states, North Carolina seemed to be more of a place where the movement for equality thrived. North Carolina was where the sit-in protests began, and where the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was created, after all. Around the same time as the Civil Rights Movement, the Carolinas, as well as the rest of the South, finally made the shift from a rural, more agricultural-based economy to a more urban, industrial-based economy. For the first time, cities started to quickly grow, but mostly in North Carolina. Today, Charlotte, the biggest city in North Carolina, is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. It had just over 134,000 people in 1950 and has grown to more than 850,000 today. So yeah, today North Carolina is much, much more urban than South Carolina. South Carolina’s largest city, Charleston, is also its oldest. It has just 138,000 people. Speaking of population, North Carolina has about twice as many people as South Carolina. It’s not twice as big in terms of actual land, but it’s about 62% bigger. It also has more coastline. Sure, South Carolina may be the tenth smallest state, but it’s the 24th largest in terms of population. Both states are two of the fastest growing states in the country. Yeah, check out my Sun Belt video if you haven’t caught that one yet. Both states border the Atlantic Ocean in the east and Appalachian Mountains in the west. Specifically, the Blue Ridge Mountains. Driving from the beaches to the western edges of each state, things go from fairly flat and palm trees to gently rolling to holy crap we’re in the freaking mountains! The mountains are a bit more dramatic in North Carolina, which has the highest peak in the Eastern United States, Mount Mitchell. And yeah, since South Carolina is a little bit, you know...SOUTH, it does have a bit warmer temperatures overall than North Carolina. You know, a bit milder winters and less snow and ice. But it’s not a dramatic difference. And obviously there’s the east/west difference. The closer to the coast, the nicer, in general. The closer to the mountains, the cooler and less predictable, in general. Oh, and the eastern portion of both states has to worry about hurricanes. But the western portion still has to worry about tornadoes so you know... Both states have a really high African American population compared to most other states. With the legacy of slavery in both, that certainly make sense. North Carolina has a much larger Native American presence compared to South Carolina. Both states are pretty religious, with Christianity dominating as the most popular religion in both. Protestant Christianity, in particular. In terms of politics, South Carolina is definitely more conservative-leaning. North Carolina has become a swing state for presidential elections in recent years, while South Carolina hasn’t voted for a Democratic candidate since 1976, and that’s only because it was Jimmy Carter, who was the governor of Georgia, their next door neighbor. Both state legislatures are majority Republican, however. The North Carolina General Assembly and South Carolina General Assembly are pretty dang similar. Some state laws are noticeably different in the two states. The fireworks laws are much more lenient in South Carolina. North Carolina has decriminalized marijuana use and possession a bit, and will most likely legalize it before South Carolina does. Although it was really difficult to research taxes in both states, I’ve determined South Carolina as a lower tax burden overall. The most noticeable difference is that gas is cheaper in South Carolina due to a much smaller gas tax. Sales taxes start lower in North Carolina compared to South Carolina, but counties and cities often add their own sales taxes on top of it. North Carolina seems to have a more promising economic future compared to South Carolina. According to Forbes magazine, it’s the number one state for new businesses. But both are rocking, with similar unemployment rates and job growth rates. Both states have identical poverty rates. The cost of living is pretty similar, too, although it’s slightly more expensive in North Carolina, especially if you move to Asheville. What the heck, Asheville? I mean, are you really that cool? Speaking of poverty, South Carolina has higher crime overall. I’m sorry, South Carolina government, about publishing that and stuff. But South Carolina gets 3 more sunny days a year compared to North Carolina. Did that make up for it? South Carolina also spends more money per student on education. But that doesn’t match up with the crime statistics. Hmmmm Let’s see. What else? Mr. Beast is from North Carolina. That’s not his real name, and no I am not related. And Fernando from the YouTube channel E Pluribus Unum is also from North Carolina. Ian is from South Carolina. And so is Tom freaking Richey. North Carolina has more college basketball teams I don’t like. So let’s wrap this up. More than any other two states I’ve compared so far, North Carolina and South Carolina have much more in common than they have differences. Both are exciting places right now as they look to continue growing thanks to all those dang Midwesterners and Northerners moving to them. But that’s what happens when you’re awesome. You attract people. Tom: Hey Tom Richey here, coming from South Carolina That's right. SOUTH Carolina, ladies and gentlemen. It seems that no matter how many times I tell people that's where I'm from the next time someone wants to verify they ask "aren't you from North Carolina?" like, almost as if my state doesn't exist. Just remember. I'm from South Carolina. Not North, and it's a state that does exist and is very significant in the history of the United States. It's always a pleasure. A shout out to Casper Petersen and all my other George Washington level patrons on Patreon. Speaking of George Washington-level patrons, I got a new one this past week. A shout out to Roux Rinner for your generous support! And thanks to Chris and Andrew, my newest patrons at the Thomas Jefferson level! If you want to donate on Patreon I’ve put a link below. Patreon is literally the reason why I don’t coach sports anymore and I have more time to make videos. That’s right folks. This is officially my second job! Woot! Thanks for watching everyone!



South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. The Republican Party controls the offices of Governor, Lieutenant Governor, U.S. Senators, and five of seven U.S. Representatives, as well as the state's Senate and House of Representatives.

Office Republican Democrat Office Holder
Governor Currently Controlled Last Controlled 2003 Henry McMaster
Lt. Governor Currently Controlled Last Controlled 2015 Pamela Evette
State Senate Currently Controlled Last Controlled 2000 Various
State House Currently Controlled Last Controlled 1994 Various
U.S. Senator Currently Controlled Last Controlled 1964 Lindsey Graham
U.S. Senator Currently Controlled Last Controlled 2005 Tim Scott
U.S. Rep. District 1 Last Controlled 2019 Currently Controlled Joe Cunningham
U.S. Rep. District 2 Currently Controlled Last Controlled 1965 Joe Wilson
U.S. Rep. District 3 Currently Controlled Last Controlled 1995 Jeff Duncan
U.S. Rep. District 4 Currently Controlled Last Controlled 1993 William Timmons (politician)
U.S. Rep. District 5 Currently Controlled Last Controlled 2011 Ralph Norman
U.S. Rep. District 6 Last Controlled 1983 Currently Controlled Jim Clyburn
U.S. Rep. District 7 Currently Controlled District re-established Tom Rice

South Carolina has historically had a weak executive branch and a strong legislature. Before 1865, governors in South Carolina were appointed by the General Assembly, and held the title "President of State." The 1865 Constitution changed this process, requiring a popular election for governor. [1]

In 1926 the governor's term was changed to four years. In 1982 governors were allowed to run for a second term. In 1993 a limited cabinet was created.

Executive branch

Governor and Lieutenant Governor

Henry McMaster, the current Governor of SC
Henry McMaster, the current Governor of SC

The Governor of South Carolina is the chief executive of the state. The governor is elected for a four-year term and may serve up to two consecutive terms. The current governor is Republican Henry McMaster who succeeded to the office of Governor of South Carolina when Governor Nikki Haley resigned in order to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. The Lieutenant Governor is the second-in-command of the state's executive branch. The Lt. Governor assumes the office if the Governor is unable to fulfill his or her duties. Prior to the 2018 gubernatorial election, Governors and Lieutenant Governors were elected on separate tickets. But for the 2018 election and beyond, the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket.


The South Carolina Constitution provides for the separate election of nine executive officers, making a limited cabinet. This is a large number of elective offices compared to most states, which generally give the governor the executive power to appoint members of the cabinet.

Each officer is elected at the same time as the governor. The separately elected positions allow for the possibility of multiple parties to be represented in the executive branch. The Governor's Cabinet also contains several appointed positions. In most cases, persons who fill cabinet-level positions are recommended by the governor and appointed by the Senate.[2]

Legislative branch

The South Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature. It is bicameral, consisting of a 124-member South Carolina House of Representatives and a 46-member South Carolina Senate. Representatives serve two-year terms and Senators serve four-year terms. The two houses meet in the South Carolina State House. Each house is currently controlled by the Republican Party.

Originally, each county elected one senator and at least one representative. The vast differences between rural and urban counties gave rural areas an outsized influence over state government. This state of affairs ended with the federal case of Reynolds v. Sims, which mandated that state legislative districts be drawn based on population.

Judicial branch

The Family Court deals with all matters of domestic and family relationships, as well as generally maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors under the age of seventeen, excepting traffic and game law violations. Some criminal charges may come under Circuit Court jurisdiction.

The South Carolina Circuit Court is the trial court of general jurisdiction court for South Carolina. It consists of a civil division (the Court of Common Pleas) and a criminal division . (the Court of General Sessions). It is also a superior court, having limited appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the lower Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, and Municipal Court, and appeals from the Administrative Law Judge Division, which hears matters relating to state administrative and regulatory agencies. South Carolina's 46 counties are divided into 16 judicial circuits, and there are currently 46 judges. Circuit court judges are elected by the General Assembly to staggered six-year terms.

The South Carolina Court of Appeals is the state intermediate appellate court. It hears all Circuit Court and Family Court appeals, excepting appeals that are within the seven classes of exclusive Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals is selected by the General Assembly to staggered six-year terms. The court comprises a chief judge, and eight associate judges, and may hear cases as the whole court, or as three panels with three judges each. The court may preside in any county.

The South Carolina Supreme Court is the state supreme court. The Chief Justice and four Associate Justices are elected to staggered ten-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms a justice may serve, but there is a mandatory retirement age of 72. The overwhelming majority of vacancies on the Court occur when Justices reach this age, not through the refusal of the General Assembly to elect a sitting Justice to another term.

South Carolina Constitution

South Carolina has had seven constitutions:

  • 1776 – SC's first constitution
  • 1778 – Disestablished the Anglican Church, created a popularly elected upper house
  • 1790 – Expanded upcountry representation, further established General Assembly control over all aspects of government
  • 1861 – Confederate constitution
  • 1865 – Required to be readmitted to the Union, abolished property owning qualifications to vote, created popularly elected governor and granted veto power
  • 1868 – Only constitution to be ratified by popular vote, provided for public education, abolished property ownership as a qualification for office holding, created counties with home rule, abolished race as limit on male suffrage
  • 1895 – effectively disenfranchised black voters, requiring poll taxes, and literacy tests, to register to vote. In 1900 African Americans were 58% of the state population.[3] This exclusion of blacks from the political system was largely enforced until after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which authorized federal oversight and enforcement of voter registration and elections to ensure citizens could exercise their constitutional rights.

Since 1895, many residents have called for a new Constitution, one that is not based on the politics of a post-Civil War population. Governor Mark Sanford called for constitutional reform in his 2008 State of the State speech. Several hundred amendments have been made to the 1895 Constitution (in 1966 there were 330 amendments). Amendments have been created to comply with federal acts, and for many other issues. The volume of amendments makes South Carolina's constitution one of the longest in the nation.[4]

Law enforcement agencies

Local government

Historically, local governments in South Carolina have been fairly weak. The 1867 constitution established home rule for counties.[1] This was changed under the 1895 Constitution, which made no provision for local government and effectively reduced counties to creatures of the state. Each county's delegation to the General Assembly also doubled as its county council. Under this system, the state senator from each county exercised the most power.[5] Reynolds v. Sims required reapportionment according to the principle of "one man, one vote", which resulted in legislative districts crossing county lines. However, it was not until 1973 that the constitution was amended to provide for limited home rule at the county level. The Home Rule Act in 1975 implemented this.[6] This law provided for elected councils in each county. Nonetheless, the legislature still devotes considerable time to local issues, and county legislative delegations still decide many matters that are handled at the county level in most other states.

Municipal governments may incorporate as cities or towns. However, there is no legal difference between the two.[7] Compared to cities in neighboring states, South Carolina cities are fairly small in size and population, since state law makes annexation difficult.

Federal representation

Like most Southern states, South Carolina consistently voted Democratic in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century as a part of the Solid South. The Democratic block was maintained due to disenfranchisement of most black voters since 1895; the Republican Party had been nearly destroyed.

The Republican Party became competitive in the 1960 presidential election when Richard Nixon lost the state to John F. Kennedy by just two percentage points. In 1964, Barry Goldwater became the first Republican to win the state since Reconstruction. Mid-20th century issues have led to major realignments of parties in the South, particularly following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, supported by the National Democratic Party and providing for the protection of minority participation in the political system. Conservative whites have joined the Republicans, and African Americans have largely supported Democratic Party candidates.

Since then, South Carolina has voted for a Republican in every presidential election from 1964 to 2012, with the exception of 1976 when Jimmy Carter, from Georgia, won the state over Gerald Ford. John McCain won the state in 2008 with 54% of the statewide vote over Barack Obama. Republicans now hold the governor's office and all other statewide offices, control both chambers of legislature, and include both U.S. Senators, and five of seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Every presidential election year, the South Carolina primary is the first such primary in the South; both the Republicans and Democrats consider it important. The primary is important to the Republicans because it is a conservative testing ground. The Democrats can gauge support of their candidates among the large proportion of African Americans who vote in that primary. From 1980 to 2008 the winner in the Republican primary has been chosen as the party nominee.

US Senate

The current South Carolina delegation to the U.S. Senate:

Senator Party Since
Lindsey Graham Republican January 3, 2003
Tim Scott Republican January 2, 2013

US House of Representatives

South Carolina currently has seven representatives in Congress:

District Representative Party Since
U.S. Rep. District 1 Joe Cunningham Democratic January 3, 2019
U.S. Rep. District 2 Joe Wilson Republican December 18, 2001
U.S. Rep. District 3 Jeff Duncan Republican January 3, 2011
U.S. Rep. District 4 William Timmons Republican January 3, 2019
U.S. Rep. District 5 Ralph Norman Republican June 26, 2017
U.S. Rep. District 6 Jim Clyburn Democratic January 3, 1993
U.S. Rep. District 7 Tom Rice Republican January 3, 2013

A district map is found here.


The state does not allow casino gambling, but it authorized the operation of video poker machines throughout the state. This yielded revenue of approximately $2 billion per year deposited into the state's coffers. But, in 2000 the legislature banned video poker, requiring machines to be shut off and removed from the state by July 8.[8][9]


The state's personal income tax has a maximum marginal tax rate of 7 percent on taxable income of $13,351 and above.[10]

State sales tax revenues are used exclusively for education. South Carolina has a 6% state sales tax, but when combined with local and county taxes, South Carolina has the second-highest sales tax in the United States next to California. In Charleston, South Carolina, the tax rates equals 10.5% with state tax, county tax, local option tax, and the hospitality tax. Some items have different rates; e.g., the tax is 3% on unprepared food items and 7% on sleeping accommodation rentals. Individuals 85 or older get a one-percent exclusion from the general sales tax.[11] Counties may impose an additional 1% local option sales tax and other local sales taxes,[12] and local governments may impose a local accommodations tax of up to 3%.[11]

South Carolina imposes a casual excise tax of 5% on the fair market value of all motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats, motors and airplanes transferred between individuals. The maximum casual excise tax is $500.[12] [13]

Property tax is administered and collected by local governments with assistance from the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Both real and personal property are subject to tax. Approximately two-thirds of county-levied property taxes are used for the support of public education. Municipalities levy a tax on property situated within the limits of the municipality for services provided by the municipality. The tax is paid by individuals, corporations and partnerships owning property within the state. Intangible personal property is exempt from taxation. There is no inheritance tax.[14]


  1. ^ a b Charlie B. Tyler, "The South Carolina Governance Project", Appendix 5, University of South Carolina, 1998, p. 221
  2. ^ "South Carolina SC – Elected State Government Officials, E-mail Addresses". Retrieved July 31, 2010.
  3. ^ Historical Census Browser, 1900 US Census, University of Virginia Archived 2007-08-23 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 15, 2008.
  4. ^ The South Carolina Encyclopedia, Walter Edgar, University of South Carolina Press
  5. ^ Tyler (1998), "The South Carolina Governance Project"], p. 222
  6. ^ Tyler (1998), "The South Carolina Governance Project"], p. 222
  7. ^ Section 5-7-20 Archived 2009-04-01 at the Wayback Machine of the South Carolina Code of Laws. "The corporate name of every city or town incorporated under this title shall be 'the city of "__________" ' or 'the town of "__________" '."
  8. ^ "Video Poker Outlawed In South Carolina".
  9. ^ Statement by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division regarding the change of Video Poker Machine Laws (In PDF Format)
  10. ^ South Carolina Personal income tax,, February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  11. ^ a b Sales and Use Tax Seminar Manual 2007, South Carolina Department of Revenue, January 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  12. ^ a b A General Guide To South Carolina Sales and Use Tax, South Carolina Department of Revenue, October 12, 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  13. ^ "Code of Laws - Title 12 - Chapter 36 - South Carolina Sales And Use Tax Act". Retrieved 2019-10-23.
  14. ^ South Carolina Inheritance and estate taxes,, February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
This page was last edited on 23 October 2019, at 13:59
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