Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 22 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court

Section 5 gives States the flexibility to choose one theory of effective representation over the other.

In addition to the comparative ability of a minority group to elect a candidate of its choice, the other highly relevant factor in a retrogression inquiry is the extent to which a new plan changes the minority group's opportunity to participate in the political process. " '[T]he power to influence the political process is not limited to winning elections.' " Thornburg v. Gingles, supra, at 99 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment) (quoting Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U. S. 109, 132 (1986)); see also White v. Regester, 412 U. S. 755, 766-767 (1973); Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U. S. 124, 149-160 (1971); Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U. S., at 1011-1012.

Thus, a court must examine whether a new plan adds or subtracts "influence districts"—where minority voters may not be able to elect a candidate of choice but can play a substantial, if not decisive, role in the electoral process. Cf. Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U. S. 899, 947, n. 21 (1996) (Stevens, J., dissenting); Hays v. Louisiana, 936 F. Supp. 360, 364, n. 17 (WD La. 1996); Johnson v. De Grandy, supra, at 1011- 1012; Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S., at 98-100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). In assessing the comparative weight of these influence districts, it is important to consider "the likelihood that candidates elected without decisive minority support would be willing to take the minority's interests into account." Id., at 100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). In fact, various studies have suggested that the most effective way to maximize minority voting strength may be to create more influence or coalitional districts. See, e. g., Lublin, Racial Redistricting and African-American Representation: A Critique of "Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress?" 93 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 183, 185 (1999) (noting that racial redistricting in the early 1990's, which created more majority-minority districts, made Congress "less likely to adopt initiatives supported by blacks"); Cameron, Epstein, &

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