Making Democracy Work


South Carolina

Government of South Carolina

South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches. Also relevant are the state constitution, law enforcement agencies, federal representation, state finances, and state taxes. South Carolina has historically had a weak executive branch and a strong legislature. Local governments were also weak. But, the 1867 Constitution, passed during the Reconstruction era, extended democratization by establishing home rule for counties. The 1895 state constitution overturned this, reducing the role of counties and strengthening the relative role of the state legislature. As each county had one state senator, that position was particularly powerful. This status continued until 1973 when the state constitution was amended to provide for home rule for the counties. During this time the state had changed, with increasing urbanization, but rural counties retained proportionally more power as the legislature was based on representatives elected from counties rather than population districts. The federal court case, Reynolds v. Sims (1964), "established the one-man, one-vote concept for electoral representation at the state level. Legislators were now supposed to represent more or less equal numbers of people." Residents of urban areas had been found to be markedly underrepresented in the legislature under the county-based system. Reapportionment made obvious the need for other changes to county structure, leading to the legislature passing the constitutional amendment. The Home Rule Act of 1975 implemented the amendment giving more power to the counties.

Buildings of the state government