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Shaw v. Reno

509 U.S. 630 (1993)

tl;dr: Racial gerrymandering must be evaluated with strict scrutiny.

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The case of Shaw et al. v. Reno, Attorney General, et al. involved a challenge to North Carolina's redistricting plan, which was alleged to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. The plan intentionally created two congressional districts with a majority of black voters to ensure the election of two black representatives to Congress. The District Court dismissed the complaint, finding that the State's purpose was to comply with the Voting Rights Act and that race-conscious redistricting to benefit minority voters is not per se unconstitutional. The case raised questions about the constitutionality of race-based districting and the potential for discriminatory intent in redistricting. Redistricting legislation that is so irregular that it can only be viewed as an effort to segregate races for voting purposes without sufficient justification violates the Equal Protection Clause. A plaintiff can challenge a reapportionment statute under the Equal Protection Clause by alleging that the legislation is an effort to separate voters into different districts based on race without sufficient justification. Racial gerrymandering should be subject to stricter scrutiny than nonracial political gerrymandering.

The case involves alleged racial gerrymandering without sufficient justification. Compliance with antidiscrimination laws is not enough to justify a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The state must have strong evidence to support the need for remedial action to eradicate the effects of past racial discrimination. To make a successful gerrymandering claim, an identifiable group must show less opportunity to participate in political processes and elect legislators of their choice. Discrimination in the polity, not just at the polls, is the focus of gerrymandering cases. Conscious use of race in redistricting does not violate the Equal Protection Clause unless it denies a particular group equal access to the political process or unduly minimizes its voting strength.

Justice Stevens believes the District Court's decision should be affirmed. The difference between constitutional and unconstitutional gerrymandering is whether the purpose is to enhance the power of the group in control of the districting process at the expense of any minority group. The Court has not applied heightened scrutiny to race-based districting decisions because the legitimate consideration of race in districting decisions is usually inevitable under the Voting Rights Act. The State must justify the use of race in districting plans and prove it in court. If no harm is alleged, the plan should be upheld. The court did not provide a valid reason for treating oddly shaped districts differently. Lower court decision may be erroneous.

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IRACIssue, Rule, Analysis, Conclusion

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Facts & Holding

Facts:As a result of the 1990 census, NC became entitled...

Holding:This court has never held that race-conscious state decision-making is...

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Shaw v. Reno

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