Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 23 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

O'Halloran, Do Majority-Minority Districts Maximize Substantive Black Representation in Congress? 90 Am. Pol. Sci. Rev. 794, 808 (1996) (concluding that the "[d]istricting schemes that maximize the number of minority representatives do not necessarily maximize substantive minority representation"); C. Swain, Black Faces, Black Interests 193- 234 (1995); Pildes, 80 N. C. L. Rev., at 1517; Grofman, Handley, & Lublin, Drawing Effective Minority Districts: A Conceptual Framework and Some Empirical Evidence, 79 N. C. L. Rev. 1383 (2001).

Section 5 leaves room for States to use these types of influence and coalitional districts. Indeed, the State's choice ultimately may rest on a political choice of whether substantive or descriptive representation is preferable. See Pitkin, supra, at 142; Swain, supra, at 5. The State may choose, consistent with 5, that it is better to risk having fewer minority representatives in order to achieve greater overall representation of a minority group by increasing the number of representatives sympathetic to the interests of minority voters. See Thornburg v. Gingles, supra, at 87-89, 99 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment); cf. Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U. S., at 1020.

In addition to influence districts, one other method of assessing the minority group's opportunity to participate in the political process is to examine the comparative position of legislative leadership, influence, and power for representatives of the benchmark majority-minority districts. A legislator, no less than a voter, is "not immune from the obligation to pull, haul, and trade to find common political ground." Ibid. Indeed, in a representative democracy, the very purpose of voting is to delegate to chosen representatives the power to make and pass laws. The ability to exert more control over that process is at the core of exercising political power. A lawmaker with more legislative influence has more potential to set the agenda, to participate in closed-door meetings, to negotiate from a stronger position, and to


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