Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 6 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

tice, or procedure" goes into effect, it must be precleared by either the Attorney General of the United States or a federal court to ensure that the change "does not have the purpose and will not have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color." 42 U. S. C. 1973c. Whether a voting procedure change should be precleared depends on whether the change "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 (1976). We therefore must decide whether Georgia's State Senate redistricting plan is retrogressive as compared to its previous, benchmark districting plan.



Over the past decade, the propriety of Georgia's state and congressional districts has been the subject of repeated litigation. In 1991, the Georgia General Assembly began the process of redistricting after the 1990 census. Because Georgia is a covered jurisdiction under 5 of the Voting Rights Act, see Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S. 900, 905 (1995), Georgia submitted its revised State Senate plan to the United States Department of Justice for preclearance. The plan as enacted into law increased the number of majority-minority districts from the previous Senate plan. The Department of Justice nevertheless refused preclearance because of Georgia's failure to maximize the number of majority-minority districts. See Johnson v. Miller, 929 F. Supp. 1529, 1537, and n. 23 (SD Ga. 1996). After Georgia made changes to the Senate plan in an attempt to satisfy the United States' objections, the State again submitted it to the Department of Justice for preclearance. Again, the Department of Justice refused preclearance because the plan did not contain a sufficient number of majority-minority districts. See id., at 1537, 1539. Finally, the United States precleared

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