Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 28 (2003)

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488

GEORGIA v. ASHCROFT

Opinion of the Court

the new plan creates 8 new districts—out of 56—where black voters as a group can play a substantial or decisive role in the electoral process. Indeed, under the census figures in use at the time Georgia enacted its benchmark plan, the black voting age population in Districts 2, 12, and 26 does not decrease to the extent indicated by the District Court. District 2 drops from 59.27% black voting age population to 50.31%. District 26 drops from 53.45% black voting age population to 50.80%. And District 12 actually increases, from 46.50% black voting age population to 50.66%. See Pl. Exhs. 1C, 2C.2 And regardless of any potential retrogression in some districts, 5 permits Georgia to offset the decline in those districts with an increase in the black voting age population in other districts. The testimony from those who designed the Senate plan confirms what the statistics suggest—that Georgia's goal was to "unpack" the minority voters from a few districts to increase blacks' effective exer-2 The dissent summarily rejects any inquiry into the benchmark plan using the census numbers in effect at the time the redistricting plan was passed. See post, at 506. Yet we think it is relevant to examine how the new plan differs from the benchmark plan as originally enacted by the legislature. The 5 inquiry, after all, revolves around the change from the previous plan. The 1990 census numbers are far from "irrelevant." Ibid. Rather, examining the benchmark plan with the census numbers in effect at the time the State enacted its plan comports with the one-person, one-vote principle of Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533 (1964), and its progeny. When the decennial census numbers are released, States must redistrict to account for any changes or shifts in population. But before the new census, States operate under the legal fiction that even 10 years later, the plans are constitutionally apportioned. After the new enumeration, no districting plan is likely to be legally enforceable if challenged, given the shifts and changes in a population over 10 years. And if the State has not redistricted in response to the new census figures, a federal court will ensure that the districts comply with the one-person, one-vote mandate before the next election. See, e. g., Branch v. Smith, 538 U. S. 254 (2003); Lawyer v. Department of Justice, 521 U. S. 567 (1997); Growe v. Emison, 507 U. S. 25 (1993).

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