Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995)

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MILLER et al. v. JOHNSON et al.

appeal from the united states district court for the southern district of georgia

No. 94-631. Argued April 19, 1995—Decided June 29, 1995*

In Shaw v. Reno, 509 U. S. 630, this Court articulated the equal protection principles that govern a State's drawing of congressional districts, noting that laws that explicitly distinguish between individuals on racial grounds fall within the core of the Equal Protection Clause's prohibition against race-based decisionmaking, that this prohibition extends to laws neutral on their face but unexplainable on grounds other than race, and that redistricting legislation that is so bizarre on its face that it is unexplainable on grounds other than race demands the same strict scrutiny given to other state laws that classify citizens by race. Georgia's most recent congressional districting plan contains three majority-black districts and was adopted after the Justice Department refused to preclear, under 5 of the Voting Rights Act (Act), two earlier plans that each contained only two majority-black districts. Appellees, voters in the new Eleventh District—which joins metropolitan black neighborhoods together with the poor black populace of coastal areas 260 miles away— challenged the district on the ground that it was a racial gerrymander in violation of the Equal Protection Clause as interpreted in Shaw. The District Court agreed, holding that evidence of the state legislature's purpose, as well as the district's irregular borders, showed that race was the overriding and predominant force in the districting determination. The court assumed that compliance with the Act would be a compelling interest, but found that the plan was not narrowly tailored to meet that interest since the Act did not require three majority-black districts.

Held: Georgia's congressional redistricting plan violates the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 910-928. (a) Parties alleging that a State has assigned voters on the basis of race are neither confined in their proof to evidence regarding a district's geometry and makeup nor required to make a threshold showing of bizarreness. A district's shape is relevant to Shaw's equal protection analysis not because bizarreness is a necessary element of the constitu-*Together with No. 94-797, Abrams et al. v. Johnson et al., and No. 94-929, United States v. Johnson et al., also on appeal from the same court.

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