How slain state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney 'made a difference' in South Carolina

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The nine people killed in the Charleston shooting last week were more than victims; they were a high school coach, a Delta Sigma Theta, a retired reverend, a recent college grad, a choir member with a golden voice, an art lover, a minister, and a woman who dedicated her life to helping others.

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One of those nine people was Clementa C. Pinckney, a Democratic state senator representing South Carolina's 45th district who also served as one of the ministers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church (the site of the massacre that 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof has since confessed to perpetrating). He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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A state senator since 2000 (and a state representative for four years before that), Sen. Pinckney was passionately committed to the causes he believed in. Maybe you've read about his push for body-mounted police cameras in the wake of Walter Scott's killing in April. But the husband and father of two was equally devoted to more mundane issues that, while less attention-grabbing, were also important to the communities he represented.

One such initiative involved the redistricting of school boards in the areas he represented, which included Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton, and Jasper Counties.

"[Sen. Pinckney] represented some places where the population isn't very big, where his voice made a difference" ACLU of South Carolina Legal Director Susan K. Dunn told Fusion over the phone. "He had taken a real interest in monitoring the process of redistricting and making sure it was done in a fair and equal fashion."

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Each district is supposed to be drawn around populations of relatively equal size based on the latest Census data. But it was discovered that the nine single-member districts in Jasper County were no longer evenly divided due to the Sun City Hilton Head, a recently constructed, age-restricted development of mostly white retirees in the southeastern corner of the county, which is nearly 50 percent black.

A sudden demographic shift coupled with unevenly distributed voting power could have had a huge effect on future elections. So, Sen. Pinckney brought a redistricting proposal to the South Carolina senate floor in May 2014, the Savannah Morning News reported. The plan passed in the senate but failed in the house, prompting the ACLU to file a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Jasper County that June, per The Beaufort Gazette. A judge ruled in favor of redistricting the school boards, and all nine district seats will be up for election this fall.

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"This is tedious work, even for senators," Dunn, who represented the plaintiffs in the 2014 suit, said. "Having patience with detail-ridden issues is an important part of doing your job. He really had the patience to stick with this stuff."

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