Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899, 13 (1996)

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

Opinion of the Court

Appellees devote most of their efforts to arguing that the race-based redistricting was constitutionally justified by the State's duty to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The District Court agreed and held that compliance with 2 and 5 of the Act could be, and in this suit was, a compelling state interest. 861 F. Supp., at 437. In Miller, we expressly left open the question whether under the proper circumstances compliance with the Voting Rights Act, on its own, could be a compelling interest. Miller, 515 U. S., at 921 ("[w]hether or not in some cases compliance with the Voting Rights Act, standing alone, can provide a compelling interest independent of any interest in remedying past discrimination . . ."). Here once again we do not reach that question because we find that creating an additional majority-black district was not required under a correct reading of 5 and that District 12, as drawn, is not a remedy narrowly tailored to the State's professed interest in avoiding 2 liability.

With respect to 5 of the Voting Rights Act, we believe our decision in Miller forecloses the argument, adopted by the District Court, that failure to engage in the race-based districting would have violated that section. In Miller, we considered an equal protection challenge to Georgia's Eleventh Congressional District. As appellees do here, Georgia contended that its redistricting plan was necessary to meet the Justice Department's preclearance demands. The Justice Department had interposed an objection to a prior plan that created only two majority-minority districts. We held that the challenged congressional plan was not required by a correct reading of 5 and therefore compliance with that law could not justify race-based districting. Id., at 921 ("[C]ompliance with federal antidiscrimination laws cannot justify race-based districting where the challenged district was not reasonably necessary under a constitutional reading and application of those laws").

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