Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 4 (2003)

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decisive, role in the electoral process, cf., e. g., Johnson, supra, at 1007. In assessing these influence districts' comparative weight, it is important to consider "the likelihood that candidates elected without decisive minority support would be willing to take the minority's interests into account." Thornburg, 478 U. S., at 100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). Various studies suggest that the most effective way to maximize minority voting strength may be to create more influence or coalitional districts. Section 5 allows States to risk having fewer minority representatives in order to achieve greater overall representation of a minority group by increasing the number of representatives sympathetic to the interests of minority voters. See, e. g., id., at 87-89, 99. Another method of assessing the group's opportunity to participate in the political process is to examine the comparative position of black representatives' legislative leadership, influence, and power. See Johnson, supra, at 1020. Maintaining or increasing legislative positions of power for minority voters' representatives of choice, while not dispositive by itself, can show the lack of retrogressive effect. And it is also significant, though not dispositive, whether the representatives elected from the very districts created and protected by the Voting Rights Act support the new plan. Pp. 479-485.

(c) The District Court failed to consider all the relevant factors. First, although acknowledging the importance of assessing the statewide plan as a whole, the court focused too narrowly on proposed Senate Districts 2, 12, and 26, without examining the increases in the black voting age population that occurred in many of the other districts. Second, the court did not consider any factor beyond black voters' comparative ability to elect a candidate of their choice. It improperly rejected other evidence that the legislators representing the benchmark majority-minority districts support the plan; that the plan maintains those representatives' legislative influence; and that Georgia affirmatively decided that the best way to maximize black voting strength was to adopt a plan that "unpacked" the high concentration of minority voters in the majority-minority districts. In the face of Georgia's evidence of nonretrogression, the United States' only evidence was that it would be more difficult for minority voters to elect their candidate of choice in Districts 2, 12, and 26. Given the evidence submitted in this case, Georgia likely met its burden of showing nonretrogression. Section 5 gives States the flexibility to implement the type of plan that Georgia has submitted for preclearance—a plan that increases the number of districts with a majority-black voting age population, even if it means that minority voters in some of those districts will face a somewhat reduced opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice. Cf. Thornburg, supra, at 89 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). While courts and the

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