Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 24 (2003)

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484

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Opinion of the Court

shake hands on a deal. Maintaining or increasing legislative positions of power for minority voters' representatives of choice, while not dispositive by itself, can show the lack of retrogressive effect under 5.

And it is also significant, though not dispositive, whether the representatives elected from the very districts created and protected by the Voting Rights Act support the new districting plan. The District Court held that the support of legislators from benchmark majority-minority districts may show retrogressive purpose, but it is not relevant in assessing retrogressive effect. See 195 F. Supp. 2d, at 89; see also post, at 503 (Souter, J., dissenting). But we think this evidence is also relevant for retrogressive effect. As the dissent recognizes, the retrogression inquiry asks how "voters will probably act in the circumstances in which they live." Post, at 509. The representatives of districts created to ensure continued minority participation in the political process have some knowledge about how "voters will probably act" and whether the proposed change will decrease minority voters' effective exercise of the electoral franchise.

The dissent maintains that standards for determining nonretrogression under 5 that we announce today create a situation where "[i]t is very hard to see anything left of" 5. Post, at 495. But the dissent ignores that the ability of a minority group to elect a candidate of choice remains an integral feature in any 5 analysis. Cf. Thornburg v. Gingles, supra, at 98 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). And the dissent agrees that the addition or subtraction of coalitional districts is relevant to the 5 inquiry. See post, at 492, 504. Yet assessing whether a plan with coalitional districts is retrogressive is just as fact-intensive as whether a plan with both influence and coalitional districts is retrogressive. As Justice Souter recognized for the Court in the 2 context, a court or the Department of Justice should assess the totality of circumstances in determining retrogression under 5. See Johnson v. De Grandy, supra, at

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