Brief Fact Summary. Georgia created a redistricting plan based on racial considerations.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Racially motivated redistricting plans must be supported by a compelling state interest.
Issue. Whether the constitutionality of Georgia’s racial gerrymandering requires the strict scrutiny standard of review.
Held. Justice Anthony (J. Kennedy). Yes. “Just as the state may not, absent extraordinary justification, segregate citizens on the basis of race in its public parks, buses, golf courses, beaches and schools,” [a state may not] separate its citizens into different voting districts on the basis of race.” Even though the Eleventh District’s redistricting plan was not any more “irregular” or “bizarre” in its shape than other districts within the state, the racial redistricting plan is invalid for failing to past strict scrutiny standards. Georgia failed to put forth a compelling reason for the racial redistricting plan, such as addressing the harms of past discrimination. The state’s reason for creating such a plan was to satisfy rules issued by the Justice Department. The judgment of the District Court is affirmed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this decision.
Dissent. The dissenting opinions are as follows:
Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens). There is no “legally cognizable injury” suffered in this case. A “districting plan that favors a politically weak group can [not] violate equal protection . . . .”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (J. Ginsburg). Georgia’s apportionment plan is not per se invalid for the mere fact that it considered race in drawing district lines. The apportionment plan “reflects significant consideration of traditional districting factors . . . and the usual political process of compromise and trades for a variety of nonracial reasons.”
Concurrence. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (J. O’Connor). “To invoke strict scrutiny, a plaintiff must show that the State has relied on race in substantial disregard of customary and traditional redistricting practices.” Only “extreme instances of gerrymandering” should be subjected to strict scrutiny.
Discussion. Challenges to racial gerrymandering need only show that racial considerations were “predominate factor[s]” in the creation of the district lines.