Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 96 (1996)

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Opinion of O'Connor, J.

the fact that, "[a]s it happens, . . . many of the voters being fought over [by the neighboring Democratic incumbents] were African-American," id., at 1338, would not, in and of itself, convert a political gerrymander into a racial gerrymander, no matter how conscious redistricters were of the correlation between race and party affiliation. See Shaw I, 509 U. S., at 646. If district lines merely correlate with race because they are drawn on the basis of political affiliation, which correlates with race, there is no racial classification to justify, just as racial disproportions in the level of prosecutions for a particular crime may be unobjectionable if they merely reflect racial disproportions in the commission of that crime, cf. post, at 1032, n. 30 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (discussing United States v. Armstrong, ante, at 456.

If the State's goal is otherwise constitutional political gerrymandering, it is free to use the kind of political data on which Justice Stevens focuses—precinct general election voting patterns, post, at 1030, precinct primary voting patterns, post, at 1017, and legislators' experience, post, at 1026—to achieve that goal regardless of its awareness of its racial implications and regardless of the fact that it does so in the context of a majority-minority district. To the extent that the District Court suggested the contrary, it erred. But to the extent that race is used as a proxy for political characteristics, a racial stereotype requiring strict scrutiny is in operation. Cf. Powers v. Ohio, 499 U. S. 400, 410 (1991) ("Race cannot be a proxy for determining juror bias or competence"). We cannot agree with the dissenters, see post, at 1031 (Stevens, J., dissenting); post, at 1051-1052, n. 5 (Souter, J., dissenting); see also Shaw II, ante, at 924-925, n. 4 (Stevens, J., dissenting), that racial stereotyping that we have scrutinized closely in the context of jury service can pass without justification in the context of voting. If the promise of the Reconstruction Amendments, that our Nation is to be free of state-sponsored discrimination, is to be upheld, we cannot pick and choose between the basic forms of

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