Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 20 (2003)

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480

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Opinion of the Court

v. Gingles, supra, at 97-100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). "No single statistic provides courts with a shortcut to determine whether" a voting change retrogresses from the benchmark. Johnson v. De Grandy, supra, at 1020-1021.

In assessing the totality of the circumstances, a court should not focus solely on the comparative ability of a minority group to elect a candidate of its choice. While this factor is an important one in the 5 retrogression inquiry, it cannot be dispositive or exclusive. The standard in 5 is simple— whether the new plan "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., at 141.

The ability of minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice is important but often complex in practice to determine. In order to maximize the electoral success of a minority group, a State may choose to create a certain number of "safe" districts, in which it is highly likely that minority voters will be able to elect the candidate of their choice. See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S., at 48-49; id., at 87-89 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). Alternatively, a State may choose to create a greater number of districts in which it is likely—although perhaps not quite as likely as under the benchmark plan—that minority voters will be able to elect candidates of their choice. See id., at 88-89 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment); cf. Pildes, Is Voting-Rights Law Now at War With Itself? Social Science and Voting Rights in the 2000s, 80 N. C. L. Rev. 1517 (2002).

Section 5 does not dictate that a State must pick one of these methods of redistricting over another. Either option "will present the minority group with its own array of electoral risks and benefits," and presents "hard choices about what would truly 'maximize' minority electoral success." Thornburg v. Gingles, supra, at 89 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). On one hand, a smaller number of safe

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