Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 9 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 899 (1996)

Opinion of the Court

standard announced and applied in Miller,3 where we held that strict scrutiny applies when race is the "predominant" consideration in drawing the district lines such that "the legislature subordinate[s] traditional race-neutral districting principles . . . to racial considerations." Miller, supra, at 916. (Justice Stevens articulates the correct standard in his dissent, post, at 930, but he fails to properly apply it.) The Miller standard is quite different from the one that Justice Stevens advances, as an examination of the dissent's reasoning demonstrates. The dissent explains that "two race-neutral, traditional districting criteria" were at work in determining the shape and placement of District 12, and from this suggests that strict scrutiny should not apply. Post, at 936-939. We do not quarrel with the dissent's claims that, in shaping District 12, the State effectuated its interest in creating one rural and one urban district, and that partisan politicking was actively at work in the districting process. That the legislature addressed these interests does not in any way refute the fact that race was the legislature's predominant consideration. Race was the criterion that, in the State's view, could not be compromised; respecting communities of interest and protecting Democratic incumbents came into play only after the race-based decision had been made.

Racial classifications are antithetical to the Fourteenth Amendment, whose "central purpose" was "to eliminate racial discrimination emanating from official sources in the States." McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U. S. 184, 192 (1964);

3 Justice Stevens in dissent incorrectly reads Miller as demonstrating that "although States may avoid strict scrutiny by complying with traditional districting principles, they may not do so by proffering pretextual, race-neutral explanations." Post, at 932. Miller plainly states that although "compliance with 'traditional districting principles such as compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivisions' may well suffice to refute a claim of racial gerrymandering," a State cannot make such a refutation where "those factors were subordinated to racial objectives." Miller, 515 U. S., at 919 (citation omitted) (emphasis added).


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