Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 14 (2003)

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474

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Opinion of the Court

for the plan but questioned how the plan would affect black voters. See Vols. 25-27 Record, Doc. No. 177, United States Exhs. 707-736 (Depositions). As the District Court stated, "the United States' evidence was extremely limited in scope—focusing only on three contested districts in the State Senate plan. That evidence was not designed to permit the court to assess the overall impact of [the Senate plan]." 195 F. Supp. 2d, at 37.

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24, the District Court also permitted four African-American citizens of Georgia to intervene. The intervenors identified two other districts—Districts 15 and 22—where they alleged retrogression had occurred. The intervenors "present[ed] little evidence other than proposed alternative plans and an expert report critiquing the State's expert report." 195 F. Supp. 2d, at 37.

A three-judge panel of the District Court held that Georgia's State Senate apportionment violated 5, and was therefore not entitled to preclearance. See id., at 97. Judge Sullivan, joined by Judge Edwards, concluded that Georgia had "not demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the State Senate redistricting plan would not have a retrogressive effect on African American voters" effective exercise of the electoral franchise. Ibid. The court found that Senate Districts 2, 12, and 26 were retrogressive because in each district, a lesser opportunity existed for the black candidate of choice to win election under the new plan than under the benchmark plan. See id., at 93-94. The court found that the reductions in black voting age population in Districts 2, 12, and 26 would "diminish African American voting strength in these districts," and that Georgia had "failed to present any . . . evidence" that the retrogression in those districts "will be offset by gains in other districts." Id., at 88.

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