Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 18 (2003)

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478

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Opinion of the Court

42 U. S. C. 1973. We have, however, "consistently understood" 2 to "combat different evils and, accordingly, to impose very different duties upon the States." Reno v. Bossier Parish School Bd., 520 U. S. 471, 477 (1997) (Bossier Parish I). For example, while 5 is limited to particular covered jurisdictions, 2 applies to all States. And the 2 inquiry differs in significant respects from a 5 inquiry. In contrast to 5's retrogression standard, the "essence" of a 2 vote dilution claim is that "a certain electoral law, practice, or structure . . . cause[s] an inequality in the opportunities enjoyed by black and white voters to elect their preferred representatives." Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S. 30, 47 (1986); see also id., at 48-50 (enunciating a three-part test to establish vote dilution); id., at 85-100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment); 42 U. S. C. 1973(b). Unlike an inquiry under 2, a retrogression inquiry under 5, "by definition, requires a comparison of a jurisdiction's new voting plan with its existing plan." Bossier Parish I, supra, at 478. While some parts of the 2 analysis may overlap with the 5 inquiry, the two sections "differ in structure, purpose, and application." Holder v. Hall, 512 U. S. 874, 883 (1994) (plurality opinion).

In Bossier Parish I, we specifically held that a violation of 2 is not an independent reason to deny preclearance under 5. See 520 U. S., at 477. The reason for this holding was straightforward: "[R]ecognizing 2 violations as a basis for denying 5 preclearance would inevitably make compliance with 5 contingent upon compliance with 2. Doing so would, for all intents and purposes, replace the standards for 5 with those for 2." Ibid.

Georgia here makes the flip side of the argument that failed in Bossier Parish I—compliance with 2 suffices for preclearance under 5. Yet the argument fails here for the same reasons the argument failed in Bossier Parish I. We refuse to equate a 2 vote dilution inquiry with the 5 retrogression standard. Georgia's argument, like the argument

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