Holder v. Hall, 512 U.S. 874 (1994)

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874

OCTOBER TERM, 1993

Syllabus

HOLDER, individually and in his official capacity as COUNTY COMMISSIONER FOR BLECKLEY COUNTY, GEORGIA, et al. v. HALL et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the eleventh circuit

No. 91-2012. Argued October 4, 1993—Decided June 30, 1994

Bleckley County, Georgia, has always had a form of government whereby a single commissioner holds all legislative and executive authority. In 1985, the state legislature authorized the county to adopt by referendum a multimember commission consisting of five members elected from single-member districts and a chair elected at large, but voters defeated the proposal, although they had previously approved a five-member district plan for the county school board. Respondents, black voters and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, filed this action. The District Court rejected their constitutional claim that the single-member commission was enacted or maintained with an intent to exclude or limit the political influence of the county's black community in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The court also ruled against their claim that the commission's size violated 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, finding that respondents satisfied only one of the three preconditions established in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S. 30. The Court of Appeals reversed on the statutory claim, holding that the totality of the circumstances supported 2 liability and remanding for a formulation of a remedy, which it suggested could be modeled after the county's school board election system.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

955 F. 2d 1563, reversed and remanded.

Justice Kennedy, joined by The Chief Justice and Justice O'Connor, concluded in Parts I, II-A, and III: 1. The size of a governing authority is not subject to a vote dilution challenge under 2. Along with determining whether the Gingles preconditions are met and whether the totality of the circumstances support a liability finding, a court in a 2 suit must find a reasonable alternative practice as a benchmark against which to measure the existing voting practice. However, there is no objective and workable standard for choosing a reasonable benchmark where, as here, the challenge is brought to the government body's size. There is no reason why one

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