Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 2 (2003)

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462

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Syllabus

or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color," 42 U. S. C. 1973c. No change should be precleared if it "would lead to a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise." Beer v. United States, 425 U. S. 130, 141. In order to preclear its 2001 plan, Georgia filed suit in the District Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the plan does not violate 5. To satisfy its burden of proving nonretrogression, Georgia submitted detailed evidence documenting, among other things, the total population, total black population, black voting age population, percentage of black registered voters, and the overall percentage of Democratic votes in each district; evidence about how each of these statistics compared to the benchmark districts; testimony from numerous participants in the plan's enactment that it was designed to increase black voting strength throughout the State as well as to help ensure a continued Democratic majority in the Senate; expert testimony that black and nonblack voters have equal chances of electing their preferred candidate when the black voting age population of a district is at 44.3%; and, in response to the United States' objections, more detailed statistical evidence with respect to three proposed Senate districts that the United States found objectionable—Districts 2, 12, and 26—and two districts challenged by the intervenors—Districts 15 and 22. The United States argued that the plan should not be precleared because the changes to the boundaries of Districts 2, 12, and 26 unlawfully reduced black voters' ability to elect candidates of their choice. The United States' evidence focused only on those three districts and was not designed to permit the court to assess the plan's overall impact. The intervenors, four African-Americans, argued that retrogression had occurred in Districts 15 and 22, and presented proposed alternative plans and an expert report critiquing the State's expert report. A three-judge District Court panel held that the plan violated 5, and was therefore not entitled to preclearance.

Held:

1. The District Court did not err in allowing the private litigants to intervene. That court found that the intervenors' analysis of the plan identifies interests not adequately represented by the existing parties. Private parties may intervene in 5 actions assuming they meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, NAACP v. New York, 413 U. S. 345, 365, and the District Court did not abuse its discretion in allowing intervention in this case, see id., at 367. Morris v. Gressette, 432 U. S. 491, 504-505, in which the Court held that the decision to object belongs only to the Attorney General, is distinguished because it concerned the administrative, not the judicial, preclearance

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