Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461, 29 (2003)

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

Opinion of the Court

cise of the electoral franchise in more districts. See supra, at 469-471.

Other evidence supports the implausibility of finding retrogression here. An examination of black voters' opportunities to participate in the political process shows, if anything, an increase in the effective exercise of the electoral franchise. It certainly does not indicate retrogression. The 34 districts in the proposed plan with a black voting age population of above 20% consist almost entirely of districts that have an overall percentage of Democratic votes of above 50%. See Pl. Exh. 2D. The one exception is proposed District 4, with a black voting age population of 30.51% and an overall Democratic percentage of 48.86%. See ibid. These statistics make it more likely as a matter of fact that black voters will constitute an effective voting bloc, even if they cannot always elect the candidate of their choice. See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S., at 100 (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment). These statistics also buttress the testimony of the designers of the plan such as Senator Brown, who stated that the goal of the plan was to maintain or increase black voting strength and relatedly to increase the prospects of Democratic victory. See supra, at 469-470.

The testimony of Congressman John Lewis is not so easily dismissed. Congressman Lewis is not a member of the State Senate and thus has less at stake personally in the outcome of this litigation. Congressman Lewis testified that "giving real power to black voters comes from the kind of redistricting efforts the State of Georgia has made," and that the Senate plan "will give real meaning to voting for African Americans" because "you have a greater chance of putting in office people that are going to be responsive." Pl. Exh. 21, at 21-23. Section 5 gives States the flexibility to implement the type of plan that Georgia has submitted for preclearance—a plan that increases the number of districts with a majority-black voting age population, even if it means that in some of those districts, minority voters will face a


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