Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 19 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 461 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

in Bossier Parish I, would "shift the focus of 5 from nonretrogression to vote dilution, and [would] change the 5 benchmark from a jurisdiction's existing plan to a hypothetical, undiluted plan." Id., at 480. Instead of showing that the Senate plan is nondilutive under 2, Georgia must prove that its plan is nonretrogressive under 5.


Georgia argues that even if compliance with 2 does not automatically result in preclearance under 5, its State Senate plan should be precleared because it does not lead to "a retrogression in the position of racial minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the electoral franchise." Beer v. United States, supra, at 141. See, e. g., Brief for Appellant 32, 36.

While we have never determined the meaning of "effective exercise of the electoral franchise," this case requires us to do so in some detail. First, the United States and the District Court correctly acknowledge that in examining whether the new plan is retrogressive, the inquiry must encompass the entire statewide plan as a whole. See 195 F. Supp. 2d, at 73; Tr. of Oral Arg. 28-29. Thus, while the diminution of a minority group's effective exercise of the electoral franchise in one or two districts may be sufficient to show a violation of 5, it is only sufficient if the covered jurisdiction cannot show that the gains in the plan as a whole offset the loss in a particular district.

Second, any assessment of the retrogression of a minority group's effective exercise of the electoral franchise depends on an examination of all the relevant circumstances, such as the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice, the extent of the minority group's opportunity to participate in the political process, and the feasibility of creating a nonretrogressive plan. See, e. g., Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U. S. 997, 1011-1012, 1020-1021 (1994); Richmond v. United States, 422 U. S. 358, 371-372 (1975); Thornburg


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