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in a 5-4 decision, the court vacated a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that held that a Georgia state Senate redistricting plan violated § 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The plan had sought to redistrict minority voters from electoral districts in which they comprised the majority so as to increase the number of “influence” districts in which black voters would be able to exert a significant electoral force. Georgia v. Ashcroft, No. 02-182. According to O’Connor’s opinion, whether a redistricting plan diminishes blacks’ electoral power or not depends on a number of factors. In “order to maximize the electoral success of a minority group, a State may choose to create a certain number of ‘safe’ districts, in which it is highly likely that minority voters will be able to elect the candidate of their choice . . . .Alternatively, a State may choose to create a greater number of districts in which it is likely-although perhaps not quite as likely as under the benchmark plan-that minority voters will be able to elect candidates of their choice . . . .Section 5 does not dictate that a State must pick one of these methods of redistricting over another.” O’Connor’s opinion was joined by Rehnquist, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas. According to Souter’s dissent, the issue was not whether minority voters in new districts may have some influence, but whether minority voters will have effective influence. A redistricting plan “must show that the probable voting behavior of nonminority voters will make coalitions with minorities a real prospect.” His dissent was joined by Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer.

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