Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 95 (1996)

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Cite as: 517 U. S. 952 (1996)

Opinion of O'Connor, J.

ibid. If, as may commonly happen, traditional districting principles are substantially followed without much conscious thought, they cannot be said to have been "subordinated to race." In considering whether race was the "predominant factor motivating the legislatur[e]," it is, however, evidentially significant that at the time of the redistricting, the State had compiled detailed racial data for use in redistricting, but made no apparent attempt to compile, and did not refer specifically to, equivalent data regarding communities of interest.

Appellants present a more substantial case for their claim that incumbency protection rivaled race in determining the district's shape. Representative Johnson was the principal architect of District 30, which was designed in part to create a safe Democratic seat for her. At an early stage in the redistricting process, Johnson submitted to the state legislature a plan for Dallas County with a relatively compact 44% African-American district that did not violate the integrity of any voter tabulation district or county lines. See App. 139; 861 F. Supp., at 1338. The District Court found that "[w]hile minority voters did not object" to it, id., at 1330, "[t]hat plan drew much opposition from incumbents and was quickly abandoned," id., at 1321, n. 22. "[F]ive other congressmen would have been thrown into districts other than the ones they currently represent." Id., at 1330-1331. Appellants also point to testimony from Johnson and others to the effect that the incumbents of the adjacent Democratic Districts 5 and 24 exerted strong and partly successful efforts to retain predominantly African-American Democratic voters in their districts. (There was evidence that 97% of African-American voters in and around the city of Dallas vote Democrat.) See generally id., at 1321-1322.

In some circumstances, incumbency protection might explain as well as, or better than, race a State's decision to depart from other traditional districting principles, such as compactness, in the drawing of bizarre district lines. And


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