Alabama Legislative Black Caucus, et al v. The State of Alabama, et al (PANEL)(LEAD)
THOMPSON, District Judge, dissenting re 203 Memorandum Opinion and Order. By Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson entered on 12/20/2013. (dmn, )
IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
BLACK CAUCUS, et al.,
THE STATE OF ALABAMA,
CONFERENCE, et al.,
THE STATE OF ALABAMA,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
CIVIL ACTION NO.
THOMPSON, District Judge, dissenting
In these two cases, the Alabama Legislative Black
challenge the redistricting plans for the Alabama House
Specifically, they challenge each majority-
black House and Senate District in addition to Senate
Districts 7, 11 and 22.
Despite the multiplicity of
claims and responses in this litigation, in my view the
two cases are actually quite simple.
As explained below,
the drafters of these plans labored under the false
belief that § 5 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”), 42
U.S.C. § 1973c, required them to adopt for each majorityblack
population, ranging as high as 78.1 % black.
the drafters sifted residents by race across the State of
Alabama in order to achieve for each such district, where
possible, what I believe can only be characterized as
naked “racial quotas.” Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 976
(1996) (plurality opinion) (approvingly quoting Vera v.
Richards, 861 F. Supp. 1304, 1341 (S.D. Tex. 1994))
(internal quotation marks omitted).
essentially five reasons.
First, Alabama’s use of such
interpretation of that statute.
Third, in any event,
because Alabama is no longer subject to preclearance
under § 5, that statute cannot serve as the basis for the
Fourth, the quota for each district in which it
was used is not grounded in current political, social,
racial conditions in that district that would warrant its
Fifth, the State’s redistricting plans “threaten
to carry us further from the goal of a political system
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments embody, and to which
the Nation continues to aspire.”
Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S.
obligation and the aspiration of working toward this
Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 927 (1995).
I agree with the majority that the complaints in this
matter are best construed as bringing three sets of
claims: claims of vote dilution in violation of § 2 of
the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973; claims that the
plans were drafted with invidious racial discrimination
in violation of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments;
and claims that the plans constitute a racial gerrymander
As to the last, I would read both
complaints as alleging that the plans in their entirety
specifically challenging each majority-black House and
Senate District in addition to Senate Districts 7, 11 and
Because I believe the plaintiffs are entitled to
relief on their racial-gerrymandering claims and because
that relief would require the drafting of new plans, I do
not reach the other claims.
The majority opinion thoroughly recites the testimony
and evidence presented in these consolidated cases.
will therefore summarize only the facts relevant to the
racial-gerrymandering claims on which I would strike down
redistricting its state legislative maps following the
Three men steered that process: Senator
Gerald Dial, Representative Jim McClendon, and Randy
Dial and McClendon were the co-chairs of the
Hinaman is a political consultant who drew the actual
maps using specialized computer software called Maptitude
under the supervision of Dial and McClendon.
The Reapportionment Committee adopted guidelines to
number of factors to consider in drafting the new maps.
One key factor was compliance with § 5 of the VRA.
Tr. Vol. I at 54 (Dial testifying that “[t]rying to meet
the voting rights requirements was the basis on which I
qualification” was “not regressing minority districts”);
id. at 42 (Dial believed “our job was to get a plan ...
Other factors included a newly adopted rule limiting the
preserving of the core of existing districts, avoiding
conflicts between incumbents, ensuring compactness, and
accommodating incumbent preferences.
preclearance of new redistricting plans from either the
Attorney General of the United States or the United
Alabama was a covered jurisdiction until the Supreme
Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct.
2612, decided after this case was filed but before trial.
Each of the drafters shared the same very specific
(but incorrect) understanding of what compliance with § 5
involved: they believed they would need (1) to maintain
existed under the 2001 redistricting scheme; and (2),
more importantly for this case, to maintain, to the
determined to have had when the 2010 census data were
applied to the 2001 district lines.
See Tr. Vol. III p.
population to majority black districts, my goal was not
to retrogress the number that they had in 2001, meaning
2010 census, as applied to the 2001 lines”); Tr. Vol. I
retrogression “required ... that you maintain the black
majority percentage” as measured by the 2001 districts
with 2010 census data); Dial Dep., APX 66, at 81 (Dial
stating that lowering the black population by even one
percentage point would have been retrogression); Tr. Vol.
III at 221 (McClendon stating that “we tried to look at
the 2010 census, overlay it on the districts, and try not
to change the percentages of the citizens, the black
The drafters acknowledged that this might
not always be possible; but they believed § 5 required
them to match the previous percentage of black population
insofar as it was possible to do so.
This understanding meant that for each majority-black
district, the drafters adopted a district-specific racial
For example, if the 2010 census data indicated
that a particular district as drawn in 2001 was 75 %
black in 2010, then the drafters believed that § 5
required them to draw that district’s new boundaries such
that it remained 75 % black.
These quotas, supposedly required by § 5, posed a
challenge for the drafters.
Many of the majority-black
districts as drawn in 2001 were ‘under-populated’ once
the 2010 census data were applied.
refers to a district which has fewer residents than is
required by the constitutional principle of one-personone-vote.
See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964)
legislative districts be roughly equal in population).
boundaries those districts would have less population
than the Constitution required.
In order to address the under-population of the
majority-black districts, the drafters needed to add
people, often many thousands of people.
quotas for those districts meant, in turn, that the large
majority of those newcomers would need to be black.
illustrate, if 10,000 people needed to be added to the
75 % black district discussed above in order to address
understanding of retrogression under § 5 they would need
to add at least 7,500 black people to maintain the same
percentage of black residents overall.
See Affidavit of
Gerald Dial, APX 63, at 4 (“...we had to add population
that was both contiguous to the old district line and had
about the same percentage of black population in it”);
Affidavit of Jim McClendon, APX 64, at 3 (same).
committee adopted mandating that the population of the
least and most populated districts differ by no more than
2 % of the ideal population.1
The “ideal population”
refers to the population each district would have if the
State’s total population were evenly divided among them.
1. The 2 % rule is sometimes referred to in the
record as the “plus or minus 1 %” rule. This is slightly
inaccurate, as a plan in which the largest district was
1.5 % over-populated and the smallest was .5 % underpopulated would still satisfy the committee’s 2 % rule,
but would not be within plus or minus 1 % of ideal
population. See Arrington Report, NPX 323, at 30 n.5.
Throughout this litigation, the set of plaintiffs
currently referred to as the “Alabama Democratic
Conference plaintiffs” had been referred to as the
“Newton plaintiffs.” Demetrius Newton, formerly the lead
plaintiff of that group, passed away shortly after trial
in this matter, and the court has substituted Alabama
Democratic Conference as lead plaintiff. I will continue
to refer to exhibits submitted by the Alabama Democratic
Conference plaintiffs as “NPX.”
Prior to the current round of redistricting, the Alabama
legislature had consistently used a 10 % total deviation
rule in drafting its state legislative redistricting
Because of the new 2 % rule, under-populated
districts needed to add even more population than they
would have needed with a more traditional 10 % deviation
And adding those thousands of
2. The majority appears to suggest that the 2 %
deviation rule was required by the one-person-one-vote
principle, as applied in Larios v. Cox, 300 F. Supp. 2d
1320 (N.D. Ga. 2004) (three-judge court), aff’d by Cox v.
Larios, 542 U.S. 947 (2004). While I do not believe we
must reach this issue, I feel obliged to set the record
straight on this important question. Alabama’s 2 % rule
is not constitutionally required; rather, it is well
established that for state legislative redistricting any
deviation up to 10 % is presumptively constitutional.
Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835, 852-53 (1983).
Therefore, the 2 % rule is simply a state policy (not
even a state statute or regulation) and must give way to
the VRA when the two come into conflict. Thus, contrary
to the majority’s view, the State’s 2 % rule cannot
restrict a § 2 plaintiff’s ability to present an
alternative map with a greater population deviation.
“Larios in no way mandates that plaintiffs in a § 2 case
bear a greater burden than simply presenting a plan with
a population deviation under 10 %.”
Conference of NAACP v. Fayette Cnty. Bd. of Comm’rs, -(continued...)
additional residents meant, in turn, that the drafters
would need to find many more black people to satisfy
themselves was enormous, as the sheer numbers show.
drafters’ (incorrect) understanding of the requirements
of § 5, in combination with their adoption of the 2 %
additional black people to add to the majority-black
This amounted to 19.7 % of the black
F. Supp. 2d --, 2013 WL 2948147 at *14 (N.D. Ga. 2013)
3. To calculate the additional black population the
drafters needed to add to each majority-black House
District in order to comply with their rules, the total
additional population needed by each majority-black
district was multiplied by the black quota percentage
used by the drafters for that district.
subtracting the pre-reapportionment population, APX 6,
from 99% of ideal population (45,065).
districts in this plan were 1% over-populated, 99% was
used so that the total deviation would be no more than
2%. The total number of additional residents needed to
comply with the 2% rule for each district was then
people in the State of Alabama who did not already live
in a majority-black House District.5 The story is similar
in the Senate.6
There, the drafters would need over
106,000 additional black people to satisfy their twin
multiplied by the quota percentage, which is the
percentage of black population in each district before
apportionment based on 2010 census data.
resulting number of additional black individuals required
for each district was rounded to the lowest integer. The
sum of this calculation for each majority-black House
District is 120,825 additional black people necessary
across all districts to meet the requirements of the
4. Mr. Hinaman looked to total black population, not
understanding of non-retrogression. Tr. Vol. III at 118.
I do likewise throughout this opinion.
5. According to the 2010 census, the total population
of Alabama that identifies as any part black is
2010 Demographic Profile Data, NPX 325.
There were 669,134 black individuals living in majorityblack House Districts at the time of the 2010 census.
APX 6. This leaves 611,984 black people not yet living
in a majority-black House District.
additional black people needed to achieve the drafters’
quotas represented 19.7 % of those not already living in
a majority-black district.
6. Of course, there was likely overlap.
calculations for the House and Senate are independent,
goals for the majority-black districts.7
This is 15.8 %
of the black population of Alabama not already living in
a majority-black Senate District.8
But even those percentages understate the challenge
the drafters faced.
Many of the black people not already
living in majority-black districts were likely dispersed
around the State; but the drafters sought to find those
additional 120,000 black people in areas contiguous to
the existing majority-black House Districts.
of Gerald Dial, APX 63, at 4; Affidavit of Jim McClendon,
7. The process for calculating this number is the
same as described in note 3, supra. Ninety-nine percent
of the ideal Senate District is 135,198 people.
population and black percentage figures for the Senate
were drawn from APX 7. The sum of this calculation for
all the majority-black Senate Districts is 106,946
additional black people.
8. See note 5, supra.
The total population
Alabama that identifies as any part black is 1,281,118.
2010 Demographic Profile Data, NPX 325. There were
603,978 black individuals living in majority-black Senate
Districts at the time of the 2010 census. APX 7. This
leaves 677,140 black people not yet living in a majorityblack Senate District. Thus the 106,946 additional black
people needed to achieve the drafters quotas, see note 7,
supra, represented 15.8 % of those not already living in
a majority-black district.
APX 64, at 3.
If a given majority-black district were
surrounded by overwhelmingly black areas that were not
already part of one of the majority-black districts, then
this task might prove relatively easy.
For example, if
residents, and 75 % of those residents needed to be black
to comply with the drafters’ quota, then adding a nearby
neighborhood containing 10,000 people of whom 75 % were
black would fit the bill.
But if the available areas
near a majority-black district were racially diverse, or
even predominantly white, then a more artful approach
would be required to add the requisite population without
lowering the percentage of black residents.
example, if the 75 % black district were surrounded by
areas in which only 50 % of the population was black,
then the drafters would need to find some method of
sorting the black people from the white in order to add
population that was 75 % black.
They would not be able
to add population en masse, but would need to finely
craft lines in order to include enough black residents
and exclude enough white ones.
With this view of the challenges he faced, Hinaman
set to work drafting these plans.
Underscoring the focus
on compliance with the drafters’ understanding of § 5, he
began his work by drawing the majority-black districts.
The maps Hinaman drew contain 27 majority-black House
Districts (“SD”); this is the same number as existed
under the 2001 plan.9
However, the districts are not all drawn in the same
place. Faced with under-population in the majority-black
districts, Hinaman concluded that he could not draw the
same number of majority-black districts in Jefferson
9. There is one additional district, HD 85, that is
majority black under the new plan in terms of total black
HD 85 was 48.37 % total black
population under the 2001 plan with 2010 census; it has
a bare majority of total black population under the new
plan. Id. However, it remains only plurality black in
terms of voting-age population. Id.
population in those districts.
See Hinaman Dep., APX 75,
at 60 (the alternative to moving HD 53 was to “retrogress
every one of those districts by adding in adjoining white
That outcome was unacceptable; Hinaman, like
the other drafters, believed that § 5 required him to
Hinaman never actually tried to draw nine
majority-black districts in Jefferson County, and so
could not say how much lower the black percentages would
have been; in fact, he believed it would have been
possible to draw nine such majority-black districts.
at 60-61, 86.
Instead of doing so, he concluded that the
prospect of lower black percentages in the majority-black
House Districts left him no choice: he had to eliminate
one of the districts, HD 53, from Jefferson County,
relocate it elsewhere, and use its black population to
maintain the black percentages in the remaining Jefferson
Hinaman took similar action in Montgomery County.
There, he was again confronted with under-population in
the majority-black districts.
This time, his approach
was to eliminate HD 73, a plurality-black district, and
use its substantial black voter population to maintain
As McClendon put it, “The minority districts
in Montgomery were underpopulated” and so “[w]e needed to
pick up minorities from somewhere.”
67, at 90.
McClendon Dep., APX
In other words, the previous HD 73, like the
previous HD 53, was eliminated in order to satisfy the
drafters’ racial quotas for the surrounding majorityblack districts.10
Under the new plan, the incumbents of HD 53,
10. The majority refers to HD 73 as a majority-white
That was true at the time of the 2001
With 2010 census data, HD 73 was
48.44 % black and 44.07 % white.
Report, SDX 406, at 6.
Demetrius Newton, and HD 73, Joe Hubbard, were left
living in another legislator’s district.11
One of the
districts demonstrates, the drafters’ priority of meeting
the racial quotas for majority-black districts trumped
the goal of incumbent protection.
As Hinaman testified
when he was asked about separating incumbents: “Well, it
was a goal. It was a nice goal. Didn’t always work out.”
Tr. Vol. III at 161.
Hinaman took such dramatic steps to achieve the
racial quotas, which he believed § 5 required, throughout
One glaring example is SD 26.
represented by Senator Quinton Ross, was under-populated
by nearly 16,000 people from the ideal population.
the 2010 census data, his district was already 72.75 %
11. As the majority notes, Newton has since passed
away, and Hubbard has moved. Obviously the drafters were
not aware of these circumstances at the time; thus these
unforeseen later events do not bear on the question of
whether race predominated over incumbency protection.
At trial, Ross noted that if only white people
had been added to repopulate his district, it still would
have been about 64 % black; Ross testified he would have
been comfortable with an even lower percentage of black
residents.12 Instead, the Senate plan added 15,785 people
to his district, of whom only 36 were white; 14,806 were
That is, just .2 % of the net population addition
to SD 26 was white; as the Alabama Democratic Conference
plaintiffs note, “This compares unfavorably to the 1.00
percent of the black voters who were left in the City of
Tuskeegee after the racial gerrymander in Gomillion v.
Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960).”
ADC Pfs. Proposed
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (Doc. No. 195-1),
Ross testified that, given the demographics of
the area, to locate so many black people and so few white
people near his district, “You have to make sure you look
hard to find them.”
Tr. Vol. II at 128.
12. If every additional resident of SD 26 under the
new plan had been white, it would be 64.3% black. APX 7.
Hinaman indeed went out of his way to locate so many
black people in the vicinity of SD 26 and to exclude
white people from the district.
Ross testified that the
population in the current SD 26 is highly segregated and
that the boundaries in the new plan track those racial
Ross stated that, despite the under-population of
his district, the new plan actually split precincts that
were already part of SD 26, moving white portions of
those precincts out of his district while retaining only
the black portions; in other words, despite needing a
residents already living in SD 26.
This followed the
pattern of the precinct splits between Ross’ district and
portions of precincts to SD 26 and the white-majority
portions to SD 25.
The new SD 26 wraps around and
excludes a portion of Montgomery which Ross testified is
predominantly white, and the resulting district is not
See Map, SDX 476, State Demonstrative Exhibit
By taking these various steps to remove white
residents and add black ones, the drafters achieved and
even exceeded their quota of 72.75 % black for this
district; in the new plan, SD 26 is over 75 % black.
Hinaman followed a similar pattern of ‘looking hard’
for black people throughout the State in order to achieve
the quotas. Precinct splits like those Ross described
were a major characteristic of these plans.
One of the
plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, William Cooper, testified
that there was “massive precinct splitting” statewide.
Tr. Vol. II at 105.13
Indeed, about 25 % of all precincts
were split, and dozens of precincts were split among two,
three, or four different districts.
Furthermore, Hinaman split those precincts largely
along racial lines.
See Arrington Report, Ex. 323, at 37
minority blocks from heavily white ones”); Hinaman Dep.,
13. Plaintiffs submitted a map illustrating the
precinct splits statewide. See Map, NPX 357. There was
no testimony to further explain this map.
APX 75, at 117-8 (stating that avoiding retrogression and
creating majority-black districts were two of his three
normal reasons to split precincts).
acknowledged that he used precinct splits in hunting for
He agreed that, to avoid retrogression,
he would first “reach out to find black precincts.”
Vol. III p. 141-2.
But, he testified, when adding whole
precincts lowered the percentage of black residents in
the new district, he would split precincts to achieve the
Id. at 143.
principally relied on the race of individuals living in
split precincts in deciding how to distribute them among
As I will explain, this is clear because in
deciding how to split precincts, Hinaman had access to
political makeup of those sub-precinct units.
fact that Hinaman’s precinct splits track race cannot be
explained by race correlating with party affiliation, for
precincts would be in majority-black districts and which
would not, Hinaman knew those residents’ race but not
their political affiliation or voting history.
Precincts are the basic unit of elections; in each
Precincts in turn are made up of census
blocks, which are the smallest geographic unit the United
decennial population survey.
At the precinct level, there are “political” data:
precinct in past elections, and by how many votes.
can show the partisan breakdown of the population of a
But because of the secret ballot, no political
data are available at the block level.
Cooper, who has
explained that there were no accurate political data at
that level because “you don’t really know where ...
individuals who turned out to vote for X or Y candidate
actually live” within a precinct.
Tr. Vol. II at 104.14
By contrast, because demographic data are collected
aggregated at the census block level, accurate racial
data are available for particular census blocks. Another
of plaintiffs’ experts, Theodore Arrington, noted that
the census file from which Hinaman was working was “rich
in racial data.”
Arrington Report, NPX 323, at 37.
Hinaman acknowledged that “when I was working on the
Hinaman Dep., APX 75, at 112.
14. Hinaman testified that the only block-level
political data he had available were generated by
Maptitude on a strictly proportional basis from the
precinct political data. That is, if a precinct voted
60 % Republican in the last election, Maptitude indicates
that each census block in that precinct voted 60 %
Republican in the last election.
But of course in
reality 100 % of any particular census block might have
voted for the Republican, or 0 %, or anywhere in between.
Hinaman acknowledged that these data were not accurate.
Hinaman Dep., APX 75, at 113-4.
When Hinaman split precincts, as he did in SD 26, he
relied on those racial data.
He could not have done so
based on political data, because none were available at
the census block level.
The only reasonable conclusion
is that he split precincts based on the information that
was available: namely, demographic data reflecting the
race of the individuals who lived in each census block.
And the evidence establishes that the reliance on racial
data at the census block level was common statewide: as
Cooper observed, because so many precincts were split,
“[c]learly there was a focus on census blocks.” Tr. Vol.
II at 106.
In other words, clearly there was a focus on
The drafters’ belief that § 5 required a particular
quota for each majority-black district also meant that
suggested changes failed to achieve those quotas.
example, Senator Marc Keahey (SD 22) testified at trial
that he submitted to Dial close to ten proposed maps for
his district, to each of which the incumbents of the
neighboring black-majority SD 23 and SD 24 had agreed.
proposals with the other senators’ support as long as
districts; Keahey understood his proposals to meet that
proposals as retrogressive.
Eventually, Keahey came to
understand the source of the disagreement.
residents in those districts using the 2000 census data,
because that is what he thought Dial required.
Dial’s understanding of § 5 meant that the new districts
needed to match the percentage of black population in the
2001 districts with the 2010 census data.
That is, in
Dial’s view Keahey had used the wrong quota; because
Keahey’s proposals did not achieve the correct quota, the
preferences of all the affected incumbents.
Keahey’s testimony demonstrates that Dial’s adherence
to particular quotas was strikingly rigid.
one of the majority-black districts that borders Keahey’s
district is SD 23, represented by Senator Sanders.
the 2000 census data, as Keahey originally did, SD 23 was
62.31 % black.
2001 Plan Statistics, APX 4, at 5.
using Dial’s actual standard, namely the 2001 districts
with 2010 census data, SD 23 was 64.79 % black.
Thus if Keahey offered a suggested change, to which
Senator Sanders had agreed, that maintained 62.31 % black
population in SD 23 but did not achieve 64.79 % black
population, Dial would automatically reject such a change
rejected Keahey’s proposals on just this basis.
testified that according to his understanding of § 5, a
drop of even one percentage point would be retrogressive.
interpretation was even narrower for the other nearby
majority-black district that Keahey discussed. Using the
2000 census data, as Keahey did, SD 24 was 62.41% black.
APX 4 at 5.
Using the 2010 census data, as Dial
required, that district was 62.68% black. APX 7.
Dial Dep., APX 66, at 81.
The use of a rigid quota could
not be clearer.
In sum, then, the drafters believed that § 5 required
them to sift through surrounding districts for black
people in order to achieve particular racial quotas for
In seeking to meet those quotas, they
eliminated existing districts, created conflicts between
incumbents, ignored legislators’ preferences, and split
a huge volume of precincts.
The drafters were quite successful in achieving their
See Comparisons of 2001 and 2012 plans with 2010
census data, APX 6 & APX 7.
Of the majority-black
districts, the black percentage of the population in 13
House Districts16 and three Senate Districts17 is within
one percentage point of the goal of maintaining the same
16. HD 32 (+.68 %); HD 52 (+.01
(transplanted to Madison County); HD
(+.06 %); HD 56 (+.04 %); HD 57 (+.01
HD 67 (+.06 %); HD 69 (+.09 %); HD
(+.67 %); and HD 97 (+.07 %).
%); HD 53 (+.49 %)
54 (+.13 %); HD 55
%); HD 60 (+.27 %);
70 (+.31 %); HD 83
17. SD 18 (-.81 %); SD 23 (+.02 %); and SD 24
percentage of black residents even after repopulating the
Seven House Districts18 and three Senate Districts19 have
In some districts, the rigidity of these quotas is on
HD 52 needed an additional 1,145 black
In other words, the drafters came
within two individuals of achieving the exact quota they
set for the black population, out of a total population
of 45,083; those two people represent .004 % of the
In HD 55, the drafters added 6,994 additional
black residents, just 13 individuals more than the quota
18. HD 59 (+9.76 %); HD 68 (+2.1 %); HD 71 (+2.62 %);
HD 72 (+4.38 %); HD 76 (+4.34 %); HD 82 (+5.02 %); and HD
84 (+1.73 %).
20. For the calculations underlying the figures in
this paragraph, see notes 3 & 7, supra; APX 6 & 7.
required, and in HD 56 they added 2,503 residents, just
12 individuals more than the quota required, both out of
a total population of 45,071.
In the Senate, SD 23
contains 116 more black individuals than were needed to
135,338; in other words, the difference between the quota
and the additional black population in the ultimate plan
represents .086 % of the district.
The plans were enacted over the opposition of every
black legislator in the State, and precleared by the
Two sets of plaintiffs, including
brought these lawsuits challenging their legality.
gerrymandering claims on two bases: first, that race was
not the predominant factor in drawing these plans; and,
second, that even if strict scrutiny applies, the maps
were narrowly tailored to achieve the compelling purpose
of compliance with § 5 of the VRA.
I disagree on both
I will first review the standard for a racial-
majority’s conclusions in turn.
21. The majority finds that the plaintiff Alabama
Legislative Black Caucus has standing to challenge these
plans as racial gerrymanders, and I agree. I understand
the Caucus to challenge each individual majority-black
district in addition to the plans in their entirety, and
find that it has standing to do so as well. I would also
find three individual plaintiffs have standing to bring
racial gerrymandering claims.
Bobby Singleton is the
Senator for majority-black SD 24, and so has standing for
the reasons stated in the majority opinion. In addition,
Alabama Democratic Conference plaintiffs Lynn Pettway and
Stacey Stallworth have standing to challenge the
abolition and movement of HD 73. The stipulations and
trial testimony establish that both are residents of
current HD 73. The plaintiffs claim that the drafters
racially gerrymandered HD 73 out of existence.
whichever surrounding district these plaintiffs ended up
in under the new House plan, they claim that they were
placed there predominantly because of race.
sufficient for standing under United States v. Hays, 515
U.S. 737, 744-5 (1995).
A. Legal Standard
The Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause
provides that, “No State shall ... deny to any person
U.S. Const., Amdt. 14, § 1.
The central purpose
of the clause “is to prevent the States from purposefully
discriminating between individuals on the basis of race.”
Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, 642
heart of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection
lies the simple command that the Government must treat
citizens as individuals, not as simply components of a
racial, religious, sexual or national class.’”
Involved in Cmty. Sch. v. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1, 551
U.S. 701, 730 (2007) (plurality opinion of Roberts, C.J.)
(quoting Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900, 911 (1995))
(internal citation omitted); see also Fisher v. Univ. of
Texas at Austin, 133 S. Ct. 2411, 2422 (2013) (Thomas,
J., concurring) (“The Constitution abhors classifications
based on race because every time the government places
citizens on racial registers ... it demeans us all”)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
In Shaw v. Reno, the Supreme Court recognized a claim
under the equal protection clause that was “analytically
distinct” from somewhat similar vote-dilution claims.
509 U.S. at 652.
Where a purposeful-dilution claim
alleges that a redistricting plan was enacted with the
purpose of “minimiz[ing] or cancel[ing] out the voting
potential of racial or ethnic minorities,” Mobile v.
Bolden, 446 U.S. 55, 66, “the essence of the equal
protection claim recognized in Shaw is that the State has
Miller, 515 U.S. at 911.
If race is so
used, then the redistricting plan is subject to strict
explicitly refer to race; rather, it “classifies tracts of
land, precincts, or census blocks, and is race neutral on
Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 547 (1999).
In addition, the Supreme Court has consistently recognized
legislatures will nearly always be “aware” of racial
demographics. Miller, 515 U.S. at 916. Such awareness of
race is never enough to trigger strict scrutiny.
Instead, the Court has required that a Shaw plaintiff
show “that race was the predominant factor motivating the
legislature’s decision to place a significant number of
voters within or without a particular district.”
515 U.S. at 916.
More specifically, a plaintiff must
establish that “the legislature subordinated traditional
race-neutral districting principles, including but not
political subdivisions or communities defined by actual
shared interests, to racial considerations.”
The plaintiff in such a case may carry this burden in
a number of ways.
In some instances, circumstantial
evidence, including the shape of the district and the
demographic splits created by its borders, is sufficient
to establish that the boundaries are “unexplainable on
grounds other than race.”
Shaw, 509 U.S. 630).
Hunt, 526 U.S. at 546 (citing
In other cases, there is direct
evidence that race was the predominant factor in the
U.S. at 917-8.
See, e.g., Miller, 515
But, in any event, the rule is clear: if
race was the predominant factor, strict scrutiny applies.
To survive strict scrutiny, a racial classification
must be narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state
interest. Id. at 904. While such scrutiny is not “strict
in theory, but fatal in fact,” Johnson v. California, 543
U.S. 499, 514 (2005) (internal quotation marks omitted),
Parents Involved, 551 U.S. at 720 (majority opinion of
Roberts, C.J.) (quotation marks omitted).
B. Race Predominated
Race was the predominant factor in the drafters’
decisions to draw the majority-black districts as they
This is clear from an examination of the racial
quotas they adopted, even standing alone.
under the circumstances of this case and without any
justification other than race, require the court to strike
scrutiny. Furthermore, although no additional evidence is
22. I believe that the standard articulated in
Miller, namely that a plaintiff must show that race was
the predominant factor motivating a districting decision,
is appropriate in cases like Shaw and Miller. But this
is a different case. Here, black legislators and black
voters are challenging the State’s decision to place them
in majority-black districts.
Whether that same
predominant-factor standard should apply in a case like
this one, where the class of individuals seeking
protection from a racial classification are members of a
group historically and currently subject to invidious
racial discrimination, is a serious open question. It
may be that under these circumstances, the principles of
general Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence should control
such a case.
However, because the plaintiffs in this
case are entitled to relief even under a predominantfactor analysis, I will assume for the purposes of this
dissent that the Miller analysis is applicable to this
necessary in this case, there is ample circumstantial
evidence that various
subordinated to race in the drafting of those majorityblack districts. The majority’s arguments to the contrary
are unpersuasive; strict scrutiny must apply.
From start to finish, Hinaman, Dial and McClendon
were focused on drafting majority-black districts that
would be precleared under § 5 of the VRA.
See Tr. Vol. I
at 113 (Dial’s “first qualification” was “not regressing
minority districts”); Tr. Vol. III at 220-1 (McClendon’s
goal was Justice Department approval); Tr. Vol. III at 145
(Hinaman “was concerned about ... retrogression that would
be looked upon unfavorably by the Justice Department under
They believed that § 5's non-retrogression principle
required them to maintain (as nearly as possible) the same
percentage of black residents in any given majority-black
district as that district had when the 2010 census data
was applied to the 2001 district boundaries. See Tr. Vol.
retrogression “required ... that you maintain the black
majority percentage” as measured by the 2001 districts
with 2010 census data); Tr. Vol. III at 221 (McClendon
stating that “we tried to look at the 2010 census, overlay
it on the districts, and try not to change the percentages
of the citizens, the black citizens”); Tr. Vol. III p. 145
(Hinaman, when asked to define retrogression, stating that
he would look to “2010 census as applied to 2001 lines”
and then “tried to be as close to that as possible”).
intentions comes straight from their lips.
example, had the following exchange at his deposition:
“Q. So you did not want the total
population of African-Americans to drop
in [SD 23]?
“A. That's correct.
“Q. Okay. And if that population dropped
a percentage, in your opinion that would
have been retrogression?
“A. Yes, sir.
“Q. So if -- And I'm not saying these
are the numbers, but I'm just saying if
Senator Sanders’ district had been 65
percent African-American, if it dropped
to 62 percent African-American in total
population, then that would have been
retrogression to you?
“A. In my opinion, yes.
“Q. And so that's what you were trying
Dial Dep., APX 66, at 81. By their own candid admissions,
the drafters acknowledged that they understood § 5 to mean
that for each majority-black district they needed to
achieve a set percentage of black population, defined by
the percentage in that district as drawn in 2001 with the
2010 census data.
This kind of requirement has a name: racial quota.
“Quotas impose a fixed number or percentage which must be
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 335
(2003)(internal quotation marks omitted).
Court’s equal protection cases have time and again treated
this type of “rigid racial quota,” City of Richmond v.
J.A. Croson Co., 488 U.S. 469 (1989), with the highest
skepticism. See id.; Grutter, 539 U.S. at 335; Regents of
Univ. of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 315 (1978)
(Opinion of Powell, J.).
The drafters did not deny adopting such percentages
To the contrary, when confronted with the
actually motivated the how the majority-black districts
were drawn, the drafters vehemently denied it. When asked
about the use of partisan data at his deposition, Dial
“... what I did was begin with the
minority districts to ensure they were
not regressed, and each one of them had
to grow. And as we did those, then I
filled in the blanks around those with
what was left of the districts. So I
didn’t look at partisan to say how many
Republicans are here or how many
Democrats are here. I began my process
by filling in the minority districts,
not to do away with any of those and not
to regress any of those. And as they
grew, we made sure that they grew in the
same proportion [of black residents]
that they had or as close to it as
possible. And what was left, we just -it was basically fill in the blanks with
what was left.”
Dial Dep., APX 66, at 19-20.
When asked at trial,
“Weren’t you aware when you were drawing the [S]enate
[D]istricts that the Republicans’ goal in this state was
to maintain your super majorities in the Legislature?,”
Dial denied that was his goal:
maintaining the minority districts and
passing a plan that would meet Justice
Department. That was my ultimate goal,
and that's what I worked for ... The
numbers themselves were actually to
insure that we did not regress the
minority districts, and we filled in
what was left.”
Tr. Vol. 1 at 61.
In this case, time and again the
drafters have emphasized that in drawing the majorityblack districts they were motivated by a desire to obtain
And time and again they have articulated
their understanding that § 5 meant they needed to achieve
legislative plans must fall of their own weight unless
they can survive strict scrutiny.
Bush v. Vera, the
predominant-factor standard to a legislative plan in which
particularly instructive. At first blush, it might appear
that Vera is of little precedential value because the
decision is so fractured, with a plurality opinion, three
concurrences, and two dissents.
However, the array of
opinions is helpful for two reasons: First, they offer a
predominant-factor standard should be applied.
and perhaps most importantly here, under all of the
redistricting plans would fail unless they can survive
strict scrutiny. Or, to put it another way, no matter how
one defines the Miller predominant-factor standard, the
quotas warrant strict scrutiny.
opinion first acknowledged that it was confronted with an
redistricting plan. The opinion therefore explained that,
“Because it is clear that race was not the only factor
that motivated the legislature to draw irregular district
lines, we must scrutinize each challenged district to
determine whether the District Court’s conclusion that
considerations, including incumbency, can be sustained.”
Vera, 517 U.S. at 965.
because it is
contended that race was not the only factor that motivated
the Alabama Legislature to draw the challenged district
lines the way it did, we must scrutinize each challenged
predominated over legitimate districting considerations.
For each district, the critical question is whether
legislature’s [redistricting] decision” for that district.
In this case, we are confronted with districts
in which (1) the drafters announced a racial percentage or
quota; (2) the drafters achieved that quota; and (3) there
is no explanation for those actions other than race.
example, it is clear that one factor and one factor alone
explains the fact that SD 26 is over 75 % black: race.
Nothing else explains that percentage.
true for SD 24.
And the same is
One factor and one factor alone explains
the fact that SD 24, with a quota of 62.8% black, is
63.3 % black: race.
And the same is true for SD 23.
factor and one factor alone explains the fact that SD 23,
with a quota of 64.79 % black, is 64.81 % black: race.
One factor and one factor alone explains the
fact that HD 55, with a quota of 73.54 % black, is 73.6 %
black: race. One factor and one factor alone explains the
fact that HD 67, with a quota of 69.14 % black, is 69.2 %
black: race. One factor and one factor alone explains the
fact that HD 57, with a quota of 68.49 % black, is 68.5 %
The State has not offered, and on this record cannot
offer, any alternative explanation that would explain away
the State’s apparent use of race.
In Vera, the State had
argued that incumbency protection, rather than race, had
to be racial
Because the State had pointed to a race-neutral factor
that might correlate to race, the plurality found it
necessary to examine each district closely to determine
whether that race-neutral factor explained the apparently
racial lines the State had drawn better than race did.
But here the State has offered no race neutral explanation
for the black percentages in the majority-black districts;
no race-neutral explanation for why SD 26, for example, is
75 % black.
In fact, Dial explicitly rejected the idea
that partisan politics, rather than the racial quotas,
motivated the drawing of the majority-black districts. In
the absence of such an explanation, the plurality in Vera
would have no difficulty striking down districts like
those presented in this case, namely districts drawn to
achieve racial quotas.
While she wrote separately to explain why
“compliance with the results test of § 2 of the Voting
Rights Act (VRA) is a compelling state interest” and why
“that test can coexist in principle and in practice with
Shaw,” Vera, 517 U.S. at 990 (O’Conner, J., concurring),
she accepted the plurality opinion’s understanding of the
Miller predominant-factor standard; this, of course, is
unremarkable, since she wrote the plurality opinion as
Therefore, for the same reason that Alabama’s
opinion, they warrant the same under Justice O’Connor’s
Third is Justice Kennedy’s concurrence.
unequivocally stated in his discussion of the Miller
predominant-factor standard that, “In my view, we would no
doubt apply strict scrutiny if a State decreed that
certain districts had to be at least 50 percent white, and
our analysis should be no different if the State so favors
Id. at 996 (Kennedy, J., concurring).
Similarly, because Alabama has decreed that SD 26 must be
72 % black, no matter what the other demographics are, and
because it drew SD 26 so as to make it 75 % black, it
would be difficult, if not impossible to explain to
Justice Kennedy why SD 26 would not be subject to strict
And the same would apply to SD 23’s 64 % quota,
SD 24’s 62 % quota, and so forth.
And the same would
apply to HD 55’s 73% quota, HD 57’s 68% quota, and so
Fourth, there is Justice Thomas’s concurrence, in
which Justice Scalia joined.
Justice Thomas stated that
majority-minority districts was sufficient to show that
Id. at 1000 (Thomas, J., concurring in
the judgment) (emphasis added).
He further stated that,
classifications based on race, and we have expressly held
that there is no exception for race-based redistricting.”
One does not need to think long to know what Justice
Thomas’s views on Alabama’s quotas would be.
Fifth and finally, four Justices in Vera dissented
and concluded that the challenged legislative plan did not
warrant strict scrutiny. Though the majority in this case
reaches a similar result about the Alabama plan, I do not
think the majority can take solace from the reasoning of
the Vera dissenters.
Justice Stevens wrote a dissent in
which Justices Ginsburg and Breyer joined; Justice Souter
wrote a separate dissent, but stated that he agreed with
Justice Stevens’s application of the Miller predominantfactor standard.
For this reason, I will discuss only
Justice Stevens’ opinion.
Justice Stevens stated that
“the typically fatal skepticism that we have used to
strike down the most pernicious forms of state behavior”
need not apply only if three conditions are met: “the
state action (i) has neither the intent nor effect of
harming any particular group, (ii) is not designed to give
effect to irrational prejudices held by its citizens but
classification because race is relevant to the benign goal
absolutely nothing in the record to support the conclusion
Indeed, it appears that the only
racial dynamic at play in Alabama’s plans is that white
members of the Alabama legislature, and the white ones
alone, have expressly and specifically targeted black
difference in treatment solely because of the race of
those legislators and over those black legislators’ deep
and vocal objections.
This aspect of this case, in particular, bears a
disturbing similarity to Gomillion, 364 U.S. 339, where
the Supreme Court condemned the redrawing of Tuskegee,
Alabama’s municipal boundaries by white members of the
Alabama Legislature so as to exclude almost all the black
citizens of that community. Admittedly, the there are some
fundamental differences between this case and Gomillion:
This case is based on the Fourteenth Amendment, and
Amendment, although it has also been read as a Fourteenth
Amendment case, see Shaw, 509 U.S. at 645; this case
involves a Shaw claim, whereas Gomillion involved an
invidious discrimination claim, although again Shaw itself
drew on Gomillion; and, in this case, blacks are being
brought into or kept in a district solely because of their
race, and, in Gomillion, blacks were being excluded from
a district solely because of their race. Nevertheless, in
both cases, white members of the Alabama legislature, and
the white ones alone, expressly and specifically targeted
black people and treated them differently in the drawing
of district lines solely because of the race. And despite
the fact these black people object to, and are even
offended, by this racial targeting and treatment, they are
powerless to do anything about it politically. Or, to put
it another way, a white majority has unwelcomely imposed
The injustice of this was poignantly brought home in
African-American, at the trial of this case.
Figures acknowledged at trial that the Republican Party
had won a supermajority in the 2010 elections “fair and
Tr. Vol. II at 51.
be outvoted” as a Democrat.
She therefore “expected to
But what she did not
expect was for her “voice to be squashed.”
voicelessness, this complete powerlessness to do anything
legislature expressly and specifically targeted her and
treated her differently in the drawing of her district
lines solely because she is black, belies the idea that
these plans could be considered “benign” under Justice
In this sense, Senator Figures’s
plight today is no different from that of Dr. Gomillion.
Like Dr. Gomillion, she has no means to be heard and no
avenue for relief -- except through this court.
of these considerations, it is clear that, under Justice
Stevens’ opinion in Vera, Alabama’s plans are not saved
from the court’s “typically fatal skepticism.”
Thus, under any of the analyses articulated in Vera,
the racial quotas here, supposedly required by § 5, were
the predominant factor motivating how the majority-black
districts were drawn.
Under any of those analyses, this
plan is subject to strict scrutiny.
For the plurality,
strict scrutiny is required because the drafters adopted
racial quotas, achieved those quotas, and there was no
other factor to explain why they added so many black
people to the majority-black districts.
Kennedy, Thomas, and Scalia, the adoption of a racial
quota is enough standing alone.
And for Justice Stevens
and the other dissenters, the factors which would allow
for an exception to the rule of strict scrutiny for racial
classifications are simply not present in this case.
Under the analyses announced in each of the opinions in
Vera, the use of quotas in this case cannot stand unless
they survive strict scrutiny.
This conclusion that the strictest scrutiny should
apply in this case because of the use of racial quotas is
Organizations of Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Carey, 430 U.S.
144 (1977) (“UJO”).
line of cases.
UJO was a predecessor to the Shaw
In UJO, a “highly fractured” majority,
Shaw, 509 U.S. at 651, upheld New York’s reapportionment
plan against a constitutional challenge. The Court, first
in Shaw and later in Miller, read the UJO majority to have
decided the case on a vote-dilution theory, rather than a
The Court was clear in
Miller: “To the extent any of the opinions in [UJO] can be
interpreted as suggesting that a State’s assignment of
voters on the basis of race would be subject to anything
but our strictest scrutiny, those views ought not be
Miller, 515 U.S. at 915.
fractured UJO majority’s views are not relevant to this
Nonetheless, the UJO dissent is instructive.
inapposite or overruled.
the opinions in the case, only Chief Justice Burger’s
dissent applied the kind of equal protection analysis
eventually adopted by the Court in Shaw, namely one
subsequently adopted as the law of the land in Shaw and
Miller to a set of facts similar to those in the instant
Chief Justice Burger perceived grave problems with
New York’s plan, which mandated a particular minority
required by the VRA based on a comment from a Justice
UJO, 430 U.S. at 181-2 (Burger,
Chief Justice Burger concluded that
the State had “mechanically adhered” to the 65 % figure,
even rejecting an alternative that would have reduced the
minority percentage by a mere 1.6 %.
Id. at 183.
Chief Justice rejected this approach as unconstitutional:
“Although reference to racial composition of a political
unit may, under certain circumstances, serve as a starting
point ... rigid adherence to quotas” like the one at issue
in UJO violates the Constitution.
Id. at 185-6 (internal
quotation marks omitted).
The drafters in this case took essentially the same
approach as the State in UJO.
Apparently believing that
particular minority percentages for each majority-black
whenever it was possible to do so. In UJO, the figure was
65 % across the board, while in this case each majorityblack district had its own figure, based on the black
population at the time of reapportionment. But the result
is the same in either case under Shaw: when redistricting
is driven by “rigid adherence to quotas,” id. at 186,
strict scrutiny applies.
The majority states that the drafters’ need to pursue
districts was not a “bright-line rule” and that it gave
way where “necessary to achieve other objectives.”
I am not quite sure what the majority means by saying
that there was no bright-line rule. If the majority means
that significance should be drawn from the fact that the
drafters did not succeed in securing the sought-after
percentage of black residents in each and every majorityblack
Perhaps, for those districts where the
drafters fell short, factors other than race can explain
resulting percentages, and I am willing to engage the
majority in a determination of whether the plaintiffs
should prevail as to those districts.
With this dissent,
I am not saying that the plaintiffs should prevail as to
all the districts. What I am saying is two things: First,
there must be an individual assessment for each district
as whether race was a predominant factor. See Miller, 515
U.S. at 916 (question is whether “race was the predominant
factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a
particular district”). Second, the fact that the drafters
failed to achieve their sought-after percentage in one
district does not detract one iota from the fact that they
did achieve it in another.
The racial quota, and nothing
else, explains why SD 26 is 75 % black.
And the same is
true for the fact that SD 24 and SD 23 are 63 % and 64 %
black, respectively, and that HD 55 and HD 67 are 73 % and
69 % black, respectively, and so on.
If the drafters
relied on a racial quota in drawing even one district,
that decision is subject to strict scrutiny.
In any event, what is most striking is the extent to
which the drafters did succeed in matching the black
percentage of the majority-black districts: the black
percentage of the population in 13 House Districts23 and
three Senate Districts24 is within one percentage point of
the stated goal; in other words, the drafters effectively
and three Senate
have an even
higher percentage of black residents than under the old
Overall, the drafters either effectively achieved
23. HD 32 (+.68 %); HD 52 (+.01
(transplanted to Madison County); HD
(+.06 %); HD 56 (+.04 %); HD 57 (+.01
HD 67 (+.06 %); HD 69 (+.09 %); HD
(+.67 %); HD 97 (+.07 %).
%); HD 53 (+.49 %)
54 (+.13 %); HD 55
%); HD 60 (+.27 %);
70 (+.31 %); HD 83
24. SD 18 (-.81 %); SD 23 (+.02 %); SD 24 (+.48 %).
25. HD 59 (+9.76 %); HD 68 (+2.1 %); HD 71 (+2.62 %);
HD 72 (+4.38 %); HD 76 (+4.34 %); HD 82 (+5.02 %); HD 84
27. The majority states that of the majority-black
House Districts there are five under the new plan with
less than 60 % black population, while there were only
two such districts under the 2001 plan. Ante at 147-8.
I am puzzled by this observation. Using the 2010 census
data and the 2001 district lines, as Hinaman did in
seeking to achieve his quotas, there were actually six
districts under 60 % black (HD 32, 53, 54, 82, 83, 84) in
addition to HD 85, which was under 50 % total black
or surpassed their quotas in 75 % of the majority-black
Moreover, the majority points to no evidence that the
drafters’ quotas ever actually did give way to any “other
Ante at 132.
While the percentage was
essentially no evidence to explain why. In fact, the only
objective Hinaman ever cited to explain lowering the black
percentage of a majority-black district was the creation
of another majority-black district near HD 19, namely the
displaced HD 53.
Tr. Vol. III at 161-2.
same number of majority-minority districts was part of the
drafters’ understanding of what § 5 required; thus this
population under the 2001 plan.
districts were over 60 % black under the 2001 plan with
2000 census data, the figure on which the majority
apparently relies, is not relevant to the consideration
of the drafters’ success in achieving their quotas, which
were defined by the 2001 districts with 2010 census data.
28. HD 19 (-8.54 %); HD 58 (-5.08 %); HD 77 (6.58 %); HD 78 (-4.14 %); HD 98 (-5.23 %); HD 99 (-7.75
%); HD 103 (-4.6 %); SD 19 (-6.26 %); SD 20 (-14.58 %).
explanation cannot support the conclusion that factors
other than race trumped the drafters’ quotas.
never testified that he lowered the black percentage in
any district for any other reason.
districts is that there were simply not enough black
population percentages in some districts.
It appears in
some cases even extreme racial gerrymandering was not
enough to find all the black people the drafters sought.
But the fact that the drafters ultimately could not find
enough black people to fill their quotas certainly does
not mean that they did not try; and sorting people by race
in the process of trying to achieve racial quotas is quite
enough to trigger strict scrutiny.
distraction from the important point, which is where they
In most of the districts, the drafters of
these plans either surpassed their quotas or effectively
achieved them (to within a percentage point).
cases, the precision with which the drafters refilled
districts with the exact number of black individuals they
sought is breathtaking.
The most extreme example is HD
There, the quota was an additional 1,145 black
people; the drafters added 1,143.
See note 3, supra; APX
Out of a total population of 45,083, this represents
exactitude that would be admirable in its skill if it were
In any event, if, with the observation that the
drafters were not using a bright-line rule, the majority
is suggesting that the drafters were pursuing ‘goals,’ or
distinction is beside the point.”
(Opinion of Powell, J.).
Bakke, 438 U.S. at 289
“Whether this limitation is
described as a quota or a goal, it is a line drawn on the
basis of race.”
In this case, the drafters have
population to achieve in each majority-black district.
Thus, semantics aside, strict scrutiny applies.
Even if the racial quotas, standing alone, were not
enough to require strict scrutiny in this case, there is
to establish that such
That evidence shows that, time after
time, the drafters subordinated various other districting
factors to the goal of achieving their racial quotas.
Filling those quotas posed an enormous challenge to
In order to maintain the black percentage
in the majority-black districts while repopulating the
districts up to compliance with the 2 % rule, the drafters
needed to add over 120,000 additional black people to the
majority-black House Districts.
See note 3, supra.
amounted to 19.7 % of total black population in the State
not already living in a majority-black House District.
See note 5, supra.
When one considers that many of the
black people in Alabama but not already living in a
majority-black district were likely dispersed around the
rest of the State, the chance of finding those 120,000 in
areas contiguous to the majority-black districts is even
The same is true in the Senate: the drafters
needed to find over 106,000 additional black people in
order to achieve their twin goals.
See note 7, supra.
That amounts to some 15.8 % of the black population not
already living in a majority-black Senate District.
note 8, supra.29
The challenge of meeting those quotas explains why
the drafters drew these plans in the way they did; indeed,
29. The majority argues that, during the 2001
redistricting, the legislature, then controlled by
Democrats, also moved many black individuals into
majority-black districts. The majority fails to point to
any evidence in the record to support the conclusion that
the State did so to achieve quotas, or that it
subordinated any other districting principles in the
But, most importantly, even if the State’s
conduct in 2001 were unconstitutional, that would not
excuse the State’s constitutional violations in this
seeking to achieve the racial quotas drove everything. An
examination of the steps the drafters took in seeking to
maintain the previous black population percentages offers
compelling circumstantial evidence that race predominated,
further supporting the direct evidence already discussed.
For example, the racial quotas trumped the drafters’
incumbents. Dial rejected Keahey’s numerous suggestions,
majority-black districts agreed to those suggestions.
course, Dial was under no legal obligation to accept those
suggestions; but his reason for doing so was Keahey’s
failure to achieve the correct quota.
Keahey had sought
to avoid Dial’s idea of retrogression, but had mistakenly
resulting discrepancy, that the black population in the
nearby districts was lower than the quota by a percentage
Like New York’s rejection of a proposal
which would have lowered the minority population just
slightly in UJO, Dial’s rejection of Keahey’s proposals
shows that the drafters rigidly adhered to their quotas.
Similarly, the quotas led Hinaman to abolish HD 53
In those districts, the racial quotas trumped
the stated goals of both maintaining the core of districts
Hinaman testified that this latter priority was a “nice
goal,” but one that “[d]idn't always work out.”
III at 161; as the evidence establishes, that goal did not
work out because it came into conflict with achieving the
The quotas also led Hinaman to “reach out” to find
Tr. Vol. III p. 141-2.
And, when precincts
with enough black people were not available at hand, it
led him to split “massive” numbers of precincts, Tr. Vol.
II at 105, some 25 % across the State, largely along
Hinaman’s racial methodology in splitting precincts
shows how far the drafters went to reach the target
percentages of black people.
Maptitude, the computer
program he utilized, contained racial data at the census
block level, but not political data. This means that when
he split that “massive” number of precincts, Tr. Vol. II
at 105, he could not have done so based on how many
Democrats or Republicans lived in each census block.
Rather, it was racial data to which Hinaman looked in
And, indeed, Hinaman testified that
Tr. Vol. III p. 143.
addition, splitting a precinct by blocks required extra
work, extra “clicking.”
Tr. Vol. III p. 166.
was an affirmative choice, and the data on which Hinaman
relied in making those choices were racial.
The Supreme Court has found this kind of evidence of
racial methodology particularly compelling.
In Vera, the
plurality described a strikingly similar computer system
to the one used here:
“REDAPPL permitted redistricters to
manipulate district lines on computer
socioeconomic data were superimposed.
At each change in configuration of the
district lines being drafted, REDAPPL
displayed updated racial composition
statistics for the district as drawn.
REDAPPL contained racial data at the
block-by-block level, whereas other
data, such as party registration and
past voting statistics, were only
tabulation districts (which approximate
517 U.S. at 961 (plurality opinion); see also Hinaman
Dep., APX 75, at 123-4 (describing his use of racial data
The Vera plurality found that “the direct
evidence of racial considerations, coupled with the fact
that the computer program used was significantly more
sophisticated with respect to race than with respect to
other demographic data, provides substantial evidence that
it was race that led to the neglect
districting criteria here.”
517 U.S. at 963 (emphasis
In particular, since only racial data were
available at the sub-precinct level, evidence of split
Id. at 970-71.
The same is true
As in Vera, Hinaman’s race-based methodology is
powerful evidence that race predominanted, particularly in
combination with the direct evidence of racial quotas.
The majority in this case concludes that “at least
some of the precinct splits” were attributable to the 2 %
Ante at 146.
I agree this is probably true;
Hinaman cited population deviation as the other reason to
split precincts, along with compliance with the VRA.
the evidence shows that many if not most of the splits
were made based on racial data.
Cooper testified that,
“If the only concerns were maintaining 27 majority black
deviation, you wouldn’t need to split anywhere near that
many precincts.” Tr. Vol. II at 105. And Arrington noted
that, as in SD 26, the splits were mostly along racial
lines statewide; if Hinaman
precincts to equalize population, there is no reason he
would need to separate black residents from white ones in
The plaintiffs certainly do not need to show
establish that the drafters went to great lengths to
achieve their racial quotas.
The circumstantial evidence
that Hinaman relied on the race of voters in deciding how
circumstantial evidence and the direct evidence of racial
quotas, amply establishes that race was the predominant
predominant because there is a factor, namely the 2 %
rule, that was not subordinated to race.
also points out that the drafters considered other factors
as well. While I readily concede that the drafters abided
by the 2 % rule, and that they considered other factors,
I must respectfully disagree that this allows their use of
racial quotas to escape strict scrutiny.
The fact that a Shaw claim is a “mixed motive suit”
does not mean that no racial gerrymander exists.
517 U.S. at 959.
On the contrary, in Vera the plurality,
after noting, as the majority does here, that “The record
districting revisions,” Vera, 517 U.S. at 959 (emphasis
and internal quotation marks omitted), went on to strike
down that plan under Shaw.
The question there, as here,
was whether race predominated over other factors as to any
individual districting decision.
misapprehends the appropriate analysis.
It appears the
majority believes that race cannot predominate as long as
there is some factor which is not subordinated to race.
But this is wrong.
The fact that the drafters pursued
“multiple objectives,” Vera, 517 U.S. at 972, does not
preclude a finding of racial gerrymandering; again, that
was the case in Vera, and the plan in that case was struck
subordinated to race cannot defeat a Shaw claim.
traditional districting factor; the Miller Court cited it
as a factor that, if subordinated to race, could establish
that race predominated.
515 U.S. at 916.
Does that mean
that contiguity must always be subordinated to race in
order to prevail on a Shaw claim? On the majority’s view,
it would appear so: unless a district was non-contiguous,
But, of course, that is not the law; for
example, in Miller the Court struck down a district
despite the fact that every part of it was connected to
every other part.
See id. at Appendix B.
The majority views the question of race predominating
as a sort of ranking of factors as to the overall plan:
since the 2 % deviation rule is above the racial quotas in
the drafters’ hierarchy overall, no amount of sorting
people by the color of their skin can trigger strict
scrutiny. In other words, the majority believes that once
some race-neutral factor is established as the highest
priority for the plan as a whole, that means that no Shaw
claim can succeed as to any part of that plan.
is not the Supreme Court’s analysis.
Instead, the Supreme Court has established that the
harm of racial gerrymandering is a local one: the court
must scrutinize each and every individual district to see
whether race was the predominant factor.
In Vera, for
example, the plaintiffs initially challenged 24 of Texas’
30 congressional districts; the district court found Shaw
violations in three of those districts, and the Supreme
Court upheld that finding as to those districts. 517 U.S.
at 957 (plurality opinion).
The analysis was not what
factors were predominant as to the plan as a whole, or
together, but whether race was the predominant factor as
to any one district individually.
Furthermore, a plaintiff need not even show that race
was the predominant factor as to an entire district.
Miller, the Court stated that the plaintiff’s burden in a
Shaw case was to show “that race was the predominant
factor motivating the legislature’s decision to place a
515 U.S. at 916 (emphasis added).
The plaintiffs have made just this showing, establishing
districts because they were black.
From this perspective, it is clear the 2 % rule
cannot explain why all these districts were drawn as they
The drafters’ quotas for SD 26 called for that
reapportionment; the district is over 75 % black under the
How does the 2 % rule explain why black people
ended up on one side of the district line and white people
ended up on the other?
How can it explain why just 36 out
of 15,785 new residents of SD 26 were white, despite the
racially mixed demographics of the areas from which those
people were drawn?
The answer is clear: it does not.
In fact, it is clear that one factor and one factor
alone explains why SD 26 is 75 % black: race.
believed was required under § 5, and they reached and
The same is true of SD 23, with a quota of
64.79 % black and an eventual population of 64.81 % black.
And the same is true of HD 55, with a quota of 73.54 %
black and an eventual population of 73.6 % black. And the
same is true of HD 67, with a quota of 69.14 % black and
an eventual population of 69.2 % black. The 2 % deviation
rule simply does not explain away this clear reliance on,
and achievement of, racial quotas.
But the Supreme Court’s cases establish that, when
confronted with compelling evidence of this sort that
district lines were motivated by race, a State seeking to
explains away the apparent reliance on race. That is, the
Supreme Court’s cases establish that a State may seek to
show that “correlations between racial demographics and
district lines may be explicable in terms of nonracial
Vera, 517 U.S. at 964.
The State argued that the direct
and circumstantial evidence that race predominated was
rebutted because another factor, protection of incumbents,
actually explained the apparently racial divisions of
The plurality rejected that argument on the
undermine the case for strict scrutiny.
Id. at 964-5.
gerrymander was actually better explained as a partisan
question is whether the legislature drew District 12’s
political behavior”) (emphasis in original).
reversed the district court and found the evidence in that
case insufficient to establish that the apparently racial
district boundaries were not in reality motivated by
But the majority does not contend that the 2 %
deviation rather than the drafters’ goal of achieving
racial quotas can explain the racialized boundaries of the
Nor could it, for there is no
evidence to support that contention. Thus, the majority’s
observation that the 2 % rule never gave way to race is
beside the point.
The plaintiffs have come forward with
compelling direct and circumstantial evidence that the
drafters of these plans relied on a system of racial
quotas to determine who would be added to the majorityblack districts and who would not.
The State’s adherence
to the 2 % rule simply does not rebut that evidence.
Indeed, by and large the 2 % rule served to increase
the impact of the drafters’ racial quotas.
While most of
the majority-black districts were under-populated even
using a more traditional 10 % deviation rule, the 2 % rule
dramatically increased the number of additional black
residents the drafters needed to find in order to achieve
This led to the sorting of individuals by
race on a vast scale across the State in order to achieve
Far from absolving the State of its
liability under Shaw, it appears that in this case the 2 %
rule further aggravated the constitutional harm.30
30. While I reject the notion that the 2 % rule
explains why all the majority-black districts have the
black percentages they have, I should not be understood
to say that the rule could not have had some
determinative line-drawing role as to a particular
district. One of life’s lessons (which, unfortunately,
I have not always been able to abide) is to avoid
Thus, there is no legitimate basis for rejecting the
conclusion that race predominated in this case. The State
did consider other factors, but the evidence is clear:
race was the predominant factor in drawing the majorityblack districts.
Incumbency protection was a factor; but
when Hinaman determined that he needed additional black
residents for the under-populated districts in Montgomery
and Jefferson Counties, he abolished HD 53 and HD 73,
leaving their incumbents in another legislator’s district.
Preserving the core of districts was a factor, but again
one that gave way to race in the cases of HD 53 and HD 73,
which were abolished and redrawn elsewhere.
political subdivisions was a factor; but, in order to sift
speaking in absolutes.
Thus, if there is a majorityblack district for which the 2 % rule explains, even in
part, why its lines are as they are, I am willing to
engage the majority in a determination of whether the
plaintiffs should prevail as to that district. With this
dissent, as I have stated, I am not saying that the
plaintiffs should prevail as to all the districts. What
I am saying is that there must be an individual
assessment for each district as whether race was a
the black people from the white, Hinaman split massive
numbers of precincts, depositing their black residents in
residents in the adjoining majority-white districts.31
Compactness was a factor; but when Hinaman made up for SD
overwhelmingly black (and 99.8 % minority), he did so by
creating a bizarre district that wraps around the white
31. The same is true of counties. At his deposition,
Hinaman testified that “... there would be county splits
potentially based on the Voting Rights Act and not
retrogressing a Majority/Minority district.”
Dep., APX 75, at 34.
32. The majority emphasizes that the districts in
this case are not as bizarre as those rejected in Shaw,
509 U.S. at 644, or Vera, 517 U.S. at 973. The Supreme
Court has made it clear that bizarre district lines may
be evidence of a Shaw violation, but are not a necessary
part of such a claim. Miller, 515 U.S. at 913 (“Shape is
relevant not because bizarreness is a necessary element
of the constitutional wrong or a threshold requirement of
proof, but because it may be persuasive circumstantial
evidence that race for its own sake, and not other
districting principles, was the legislature’s dominant
and controlling rationale in drawing it district
incumbents was a factor; but, as with Keahey’s nearly ten
proposed alternative maps, those wishes were ignored if
they came into conflict with the drafters’ rigid quotas.
factor; but ultimately the boundaries of the majorityblack districts were predominantly drawn in order to
achieve the racial quotas for each district.
were a racial gerrymander.
C. Narrow Tailoring
Such a finding does not, of course, end the analysis.
The State may save these plans by showing that they are
to achieve a compelling government
concludes that compliance with the VRA is a compelling
state interest, and I agree.
The Supreme Court has made clear, though, that to
qualify as narrowly tailored, the district as drawn must
be “required by a correct reading of § 5.”
Shaw II, 517
U.S. at 911 (emphasis added); see also Miller, 515 U.S. at
provisions of the Act”); ante, at 160 (“we conclude that
a plan will be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest
when the race-based action taken was reasonably necessary
under a constitutional reading and application of the
And the legislature must have had a “strong basis
in evidence” that its action was “needed in order not to
violate” the VRA.
Shaw II, 517 U.S. at 915.
As I will
explain, these plans must fall because they are not
required by any correct reading of § 5; because the
drafters had no strong basis in evidence to believe they
were required by § 5; and because in any event § 5 can no
longer justify a racial gerrymander after Shelby County.
The State has made a number of arguments about why
its racial quotas were narrowly tailored to achieve the
arguments are all without merit.
The drafters of the proposed plans have all described
preclearance in the same terms: they needed to maintain
the same overall number of majority-minority districts
and, within those districts, they needed to get as close
as possible to maintaining the black percentage of the
population calculated with the 2010 census data imposed on
the 2001 redistricting plan.
As I have explained, this
amounted to imposing a racial quota on each such district.
All of the drafters expressed concern that doing less
might expose them to denial of preclearance by the Justice
See Tr. Vol. III at 145 (Hinaman believed
that “if I was significantly below [those percentages], I
was concerned about that being retrogression that would be
looked upon unfavorably by the Justice Department under
Section 5”); Tr. Vol. I at 42 (Dial believed “our job was
to get a plan ... that would meet Justice”); Tr. Vol. III
approval, and he was not aware of any hard numbers in
terms of percentages that would be “okay”).
Conclusions of Law (Doc. No. 196), at 85.
argues that erring on the side of caution is appropriate,
particularly because the Justice Department review process
is so “opaque.”
Id. at 30; see also Tr. Vol. I at 12 (The
State, in opening statement, noting that “To the extent
the Department of Justice says anything, it’s pretty well
general. Not too many African Americans in a district, not
too few, but there’s no specifics.”).
Whether the State’s understanding was unreasonable is
not the appropriate question under Miller and Shaw II. Nor
is the question whether the Justice Department would
approve or “look favorably” on the plans, or whether the
Department would proceed.
In Miller, the Court rejected
the idea that narrow tailoring is satisfied by actions
taken in order to obtain preclearance as a practical
515 U.S. at 921 (“It is, therefore, safe to say
required in order to obtain preclearance. It does not
substantive provisions of the Act.”).
In that case, the
certain districts as part of its preclearance review; the
Court found that this was not sufficient to establish that
those districts were narrowly tailored.
Miller, 515 U.S.
at 922 (“We do not accept the contention that the State
has a compelling interest in complying with whatever
preclearance mandates the Justice Department issues.”).
Rather, the only way to survive strict scrutiny is to show
the plans were actually required by the statute.
On this point, the State argues that, “Given the fact
that the State’s plans have been precleared, the State’s
reading of Section 5 cannot be said to be incorrect.”
Dfs. Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law
(Doc. No. 196), at 83; see also id. at 85 (arguing the
drafters’ understanding was not “demonstrably incorrect”).
This, again, is wrong. First, under strict scrutiny it is
the State’s burden to establish that its action was
required under a correct reading of the statute, not the
plaintiffs’ burden to show the drafters’ understanding was
Miller, 515 U.S. at 920; Fisher,
133 S. Ct. at 2419 (“Strict scrutiny is a searching
examination, and it is the government that bears the
precleared the plans does not determine one way or the
other whether the State’s actions were actually mandated
by the substantive statute.
This would be so even if the
“Where a State relies on the
Department’s determination that race-based districting is
necessary to comply with the Act, the judiciary retains an
independent obligation in adjudicating consequent equal
protection challenges to ensure that the State’s actions
are narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest.”
Miller, 515 U.S. at 922.
Here, however, the Justice
Department never commanded the State to adopt its quotas;
the drafters merely inferred, or believed, or guessed that
such a step would smooth the preclearance process.
is insufficient to establish that the drafters’ actions
were narrowly tailored.
In reality, the drafters’ understanding of § 5 was
woefully incorrect, and as a result their solution is not
Nothing in § 5, or in the cases
interpreting it, required the State to adopt and adhere to
these quotas. In Beer v. United States, the Supreme Court
noted that “the purpose of [§] 5 has always been to insure
that no voting-procedure changes would be made that would
minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the
425 U.S. 130, 141 (1976).
§ 5 as properly interpreted requires a State to determine
whether an action would reduce minority voters’ effective
ability to elect candidates of choice; it does not command
the State to match the pre-existing level of minority
The State relies on Texas v. United States, a recent
three-judge-court § 5 case, as establishing that “‘A
district with a minority voting majority of sixty-five
percent (or more) essentially guarantees that, despite
changes in voter turnout, registration, and other factors
minority group will be able to elect its candidate of
Dfs. Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions
of Law (Doc. No. 196) at 86 (quoting Texas v. United
States, 831 F. Supp. 2d 244, 263 & n. 22 (D.D.C. 2011)).
In the State’s view, Texas establishes that the State’s
decision to add black people to majority-black districts
as it did was required under § 5. The State is incorrect.
In the relevant portion of its opinion on summary
judgment, the Texas court established that a majorityminority
guarantee[d]” ability to elect in that case. 831 F. Supp.
2d at 263.
Texas was a § 5 case, in which the issue was
whether certain districts the State had drawn violated § 5
by retrogressing minority voting power.
its per-se 65 % rule, the court was making an evidentiary
ruling: when it examined whether a given district the
legislature had drawn was likely to elect a candidate of
minority voters’ choice, a 65 % minority population was
sufficient evidence standing alone.
This amounts to a
common-sense observation: at some point a State may put so
many minorities in a district that ‘the numbers speak for
themselves’ when it comes to the ability of that minority
group to win elections in the district.
In this case, the question is not whether certain
districts violated § 5 (for example by containing a
minority population that is too low), but whether § 5
required the drafters to adopt the quotas as they did.
Therefore, the court’s observation in Texas that 65 %
minority populations are essentially guaranteed to be able
to elect candidates of choice is not relevant here; the
same is true, of course, of 75 %, or 85 %, or 100 %
That tells one nothing about whether
§ 5 requires such high percentages.
Thus, in sum, the
State offers no reason to believe that its racial quotas
were actually required by § 5.
The majority agrees with the State that these plans
interpretation of § 5 is different from the State’s, it is
no less mistaken.
In the majority’s view, the drafters’
conduct was narrowly tailored because the 2006 amendments
In those amendments, Congress expressly
decision in Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. 461 (2003). See
Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, and Coretta Scott King
Voting Rights Act Reauthorization and Amendments Act, Pub.
L. No. 109-246, § 2, 120 Stat. 577, § 2(b)(6) (2006).
majority concludes that the amendments mean that “any
preferred candidates violates section 5.”
Ante at 167.
substantially reduce the relative percentages of black
voters” in majority-black districts.
Ante at 169.
other words, as the majority reads the amended statute, it
required the drafters to do just what they did: adopt the
previous black percentages as racial quotas for each
33. As I understand the majority’s test, any
reduction in the black percentage, other than an
unavoidable reduction, constitutes retrogression.
some points in its discussion, though, the majority
qualifies this test: only “significant” or “substantial”
reductions would be retrogressive. The majority does not
explain what constitutes a significant or substantial
The interpretation of the amended § 5 which the
majority adopts is the wrong one. In the majority’s view,
the 2006 amendments mean that any reduction in the black
The problem is that this interpretation is
contrary to the intent of Congress; has been rejected by
reduction, or how a State is supposed to determine what
is significant or substantial.
I must conclude that
these qualifiers are rhetorical rather than substantive.
For if § 5 actually permitted some reduction of the black
percentage on the majority’s view, that view could not
save these plans. For example, imagine any reduction up
to 5 % counts as insignificant.
If the drafters hit
their quotas of 65 % black in a particular district, then
even on the majority’s view § 5 only would have required
60 % black population.
The additional 5 % black
population under the new plan would have been included by
racial gerrymandering without a narrowly tailored
justification, and so the plans would be struck down.
See Miller, 515 U.S. at 916 (a racial gerrymander exists
when “race was the predominant factor motivating the
legislature’s decision to place a significant number of
voters within or without a particular district”)
(emphasis added). Thus, to justify the establishment and
accomplishment of racial quotas in this case, the
majority’s view of § 5 must be that it required the
drafters to hit their marks where possible, without any
carve-out for ‘insignificant’ or less-than-substantial
both entities primarily responsible for administering § 5;
and would create serious, if not fatal, constitutional
In order to explain why the majority’s reading is
wrong, I must first explain how the majority arrives at
its conclusion, and where we part ways.
stringent, and I agree.
The majority also concludes that
the amendment to the language of § 5 served, in relevant
part, to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Georgia,
and to restore the standard articulated in Beer, 425 U.S.
at 141 (“the purpose of [§] 5 has always been to insure
that no voting-procedure changes would be made that would
minorities with respect to their effective exercise of the
Again I agree.
The Georgia decision introduced a “totality of the
circumstances” approach to determining whether a change
would be retrogressive under § 5.
The Court found that
the ability of a minority group to elect a candidate of
choice was important, but was not the only relevant
analysis must take account of the minority group’s ability
to participate in the political process.
the Court found that “influence” districts, in which the
minority group cannot elect a candidate of choice but can
“play a substantial ... role in the electoral process,”
districts in which minorities could elect candidates of
539 U.S. at 482.
Also, the Court found that
representatives of the minority group holding positions of
“legislative leadership, influence,
and power” was a
factor suggesting that a new plan was not retrogressive.
determined that the
district court had focused too narrowly on ability to
totality of the circumstances test.
Id. at 485.
Congress commanded that Alabama could not reduce “the
districts because to do so would be to diminish black
voters’ ability to elect their preferred candidates.”
Ante at 167.
That is, the majority believes that, after
the 2006 amendments, any reduction in a minority group’s
percentage of the population in a given majority-minority
district reduces the ability to elect, and is per-se
I will explain why this is incorrect.
implausible this reading of the statute is.
legislature is prohibited by federal law from reducing the
black population to a mere 98 %.
Read in this way, § 5
would become a one-way ratchet: the black population of a
district could go up, either through demographic shifts or
But the legislature could never lower the
black percentage, at least so long as it was “feasible” to
Ante at 169.
Because any reduction in
the black population of a district would “by definition
Id. at 167.
With respect, this
result cannot be.
It is also not what Congress intended.
§ 5 provides in relevant part that a voting change is
prohibited if it “will have the effect of diminishing the
ability of any citizens of the United States on account of
race or color ... to elect their preferred candidates of
42 U.S.C. § 1973c(b).
Congress specified that
the purpose of the above-quoted language “is to protect
the ability of such citizens to elect their preferred
candidates of choice.” 42 U.S.C. § 1973c(c). It is clear
Texas, 831 F. Supp. 2d at 260.
history, make it clear that the goal of this new language
was to overturn Georgia.
In the majority’s view, this
change means that now any reduction in a minority group’s
proportional share of the population in a district is
The better reading of Congress’ intent is
that, in emphasizing “ability to elect,” Congress sought
only to overturn the aspect of Georgia that so many found
disturbing: namely the prospect that States would trade
away districts where minority voters had actual ability to
elect in exchange for amorphous influence districts or
representatives. The House Committee Report described the
problem in this way:
“Under its ‘new’ analysis, the Supreme
community’s own choice of preferred
candidates to be trumped by political
deals struck by State legislators
purporting to give ‘influence’ to the
minority community while removing that
community’s ability to elect candidates.
inconsistent with the original
current purpose of Section 5.”
H.R. Rep. No. 109-478, at 69.
Congress rejected this
idea, endorsing instead the position of the dissent in
See id. at 68 n.183 (“The dissent in [the]
Georgia v. Ashcroft case correctly pointed out that a
hopelessly unadministrable by the Department of Justice
because such a concept does not retain ‘the anchoring
reference to electing a candidate of choice.’”) (quoting
539 U.S. at 493 (Souter, J., dissenting)).
Rather than the extreme interpretation embraced by the
majority in this case, it is clear that what Congress
the position of Justice
dissent in Georgia.
But Justice Souter’s dissent did not interpret § 5 in
the way the majority does in this case.
On the contrary,
Justice Souter agreed with the majority in Georgia that
reducing the percentage of black population in a majority99
black district would not necessarily be retrogressive.
“The District Court began with the acknowledgment (to
which we would all assent) that the simple fact of a
decrease in black voting age population (BVAP) in some
proposed plan is retrogressive.” Georgia, 539 U.S. at 498
(Souter, J., dissenting) (emphasis added); see also id. at
504 (Souter, J., dissenting) (“nonretrogression does not
necessarily require maintenance of existing supermajority
Justice Souter’s view on this issue was hardly lost
Most of the debate surrounding the changes
to the retrogression standard focused on whether or not
“coalition” districts (in which a minority group does not
constitute a majority but can routinely elect candidates
of choice in coalition with other racial groups) could
constitute “ability to elect” districts for § 5 purposes.
That question is not presented in this case. The question
that is presented here–-whether a minority percentage that
discussions of it in the legislative history firmly reject
the majority’s view.
Representative Watt, a leading proponent of the bill
in the House and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
at the time, specifically noted and endorsed the Georgia
Court’s unanimous position on this issue during a key
hearing on the effect of Georgia on the retrogression
“Nine justices agreed, as do I, that
reduction of super majority minority
voting age population percentages from
that in a benchmark plan. Where the
majority in Georgia v. Ashcroft strayed,
however, losing four justices in the
process, was in its failure to enunciate
an articulable standard under which the
opportunities to elect are preserved.”
Retrogression Standard: Hearing Before the Subcomm. On the
34. In § 5 analysis, the benchmark plan refers to the
last districting plan in place before the challenged
Constitution of the H. Comm. On the Judiciary, 109th Cong.
109-74 (2005) at 5 (emphasis added).
During floor debate, some senators had
suggested that coalition districts would not be protected
by the retrogression standard. Senator Leahy responded by
understanding of the purpose and scope of [the relevant]
provisions as an original and lead sponsor.”
Rec. 96, S8004 (2006).
That statement provided:
“This change to Section 5 makes clear
that Congress rejects the Supreme
reestablishes that a covered state’s
redistricting plan cannot eliminate
‘ability to elect’ districts and replace
them with ‘influence districts’ ... The
amendment to Section 5 does not,
however, freeze into place the current
minority voter percentages in any given
district. As stated by the dissenters in
Georgia v. Ashcroft, as well as by
Persily at the Committee hearings,
reducing the number of minorities in a
district is perfectly consistent with
Section 5 as long as other factors
demonstrate that minorities retain their
Rights, and Property Rights,” concurring with Sen. Leahy’s
Equally striking is the fact that no one contested
this understanding. While there was a concerted effort by
some in the Senate to establish that the retrogression
standard would not lock in coalition districts, no one
ever suggested that Congress was adopting the novel and
implausible standard the majority posits in this case.
Indeed, there is nothing in the text, nothing in the
legislative history, and nothing in the dissent in Georgia
which would support the majority’s view.35
35. The majority also relies on a law review article
suggesting a possible interpretation of the 2006
amendments. It is noteworthy that the actual conclusion
of that article is a rejection of the majority’s view as
well: “[G]iven that the statute will be in place for
That view has also been rejected by the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia, which is entrusted
with the primary responsibility for enforcing § 5.
D.C. District Court’s most extensive application of § 5
after the 2006 amendments came in the Texas case.
opinion after trial in that case, the three-judge court
rejected the idea that lowering the minority percentage of
a supermajority district is per-se retrogressive.
considering the changes to Texas’ House District 41, the
population had been reduced from 77.5 % in the benchmark
plan to 72.1 % in the new plan.
Texas v. United States,
887 F. Supp. 2d 133, 169 (D.D.C. 2012), vacated and
twenty-five years, the standard ought to be flexible
enough to adapt to changing political realities. An
interpretation of the standard that would freeze the
current minority percentages in all covered districts,
for example, ignores the realistic possibility that the
percentages required for minorities to elect their
preferred candidates will likely change over time.”
Nathaniel Persily, The Promise and Pitfalls of the New
Voting Rights Act, 117 Yale L.J. 174, 218 (2007).
remanded on other grounds, 133 S. Ct. 2885 (U.S. 2013).
Under the test adopted by the majority in this case, that
information by itself would establish retrogression.
the Texas court rejected a claim that this change was
retrogressive, finding that even with a lower percentage
of the population, Hispanic voters still had the ability
to elect candidates of choice.
Instead of the majority’s test, which looks solely to
whether a minority group’s percentage of the population is
lower than it had been under the benchmark plan, the Texas
court adopted a “functional” approach.
State’s argument that the court should look only to
population demographics, the court found that it was
necessary to examine a number of factors to determine
candidates of choice.
“A single-factor inquiry, such as
the test Texas proposed relying on racial and ethnic
precedent and too limited to provide an accurate picture
of the on-the-ground realities of voting power.”
Rather, the court established at summary judgment
that “Section 5 analysis must go beyond mere population
registration, minority voter turnout, election history,
and minority/majority voting behaviors.” Texas, 831 F.
Supp. 2d at 263.36
This is substantially the same interpretation of the
amended § 5 as that adopted by the Justice Department, the
other primary adjudicator of preclearance. In its updated
guidance, released in 2011, the Justice Department, like
the D.C. District Court, applies a functional, multifactor test.
See Guidance Concerning Redistricting Under
Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 76 Fed. Reg. 27, 7471
(Feb. 9, 2011). As the Justice Department interprets § 5,
the analysis of retrogressive effect “starts with a basic
36. Justice Souter’s dissent in Georgia suggested a
similar approach: “percentages tell us nothing in
isolation, and ... without contextual evidence the raw
facts about population levels” cannot show retrogression
or lack of retrogression. 539 U.S. at 505.
comparison of the benchmark and proposed plans at issue,
using updated census data in each.” Id. (emphasis added).
But it does not end there:
“In determining whether the ability to
elect exists in the benchmark plan and
whether it continues in the proposed
plan, the Attorney General does not rely
demographic percentages at any point in
Department’s view, this determination
requires a functional analysis of the
electoral behavior within the particular
jurisdiction or election district. As
noted above, census data alone may not
provide sufficient indicia of electoral
In other words, both the D.C. District Court and the
Justice Department have explicitly rejected the majority’s
And with good cause.
The majority’s interpretation
of the amended § 5 would raise serious, if not fatal,
There is an inherent tension
particular § 5, and the protections of the Fourteenth
See Vera, 517 U.S. at 995 (O’Conner, J.,
concurring) (“The VRA requires the States and the courts
to take action to remedy the reality of racial inequality
race-based action, while the Fourteenth Amendment requires
us to look with suspicion on the excessive use of racial
considerations by the government”).
Yet the majority urges an interpretation of § 5 that
require States to redistrict in compliance with racial
Under the majority’s rule, a State faced with a
90 % minority district has no choice: it must find nine
minority individuals for every 10 needed to repopulate the
district. Racial gerrymandering would become unavoidable,
essentially required by a federal statute.
Miller, 515 U.S. at 923.
UJO, discussed above, places these constitutional
questions in stark contrast.
Chief Justice Burger’s
dissent, which applied the Shaw reasoning later adopted by
the Court, rejected the defendants’ rigid adherence to a
specific minority percentage, 65 %, in seeking to comply
with § 5.
He observed that there was “no indication
whatever that use of this rigid figure was in any way
related much less necessary to fulfilling the State’s
obligation under the Voting Rights Act as defined in
430 U.S. at 183.
Rather, he would have found this
unjustified “rigid adherence to quotas” unconstitutional.
Id. at 185-6 (internal quotation marks omitted).
interpretation the majority adopts is no less rigid; it
too equates ability to elect with a certain predetermined
But facing those constitutional questions is simply
Congress did not seek to impose racial
quotas on States, nor permanently to freeze in place
minority supermajorities, long after minority groups’ need
for those supermajorities in order to elect candidates of
choice has passed.
The purpose of the VRA is to help
minority groups achieve equality, not to lock them into
Congress intended no such thing.
The majority’s interpretation of the amended § 5 is in
Applying instead the functional test articulated in
majority-black districts would be permissible under § 5.
As such, in seeking out so many black people to satisfy
their unjustified racial quotas, the drafters “went beyond
what was reasonably necessary to avoid retrogression.”
Vera, 517 U.S. at 983 (plurality opinion).
The Texas court’s functional analysis requires the
court to look to a variety of factors, including the
mobilization of the minority group in question. In Texas,
the court was concerned that many of the relevant factors
meant that the minority group at issue in that case,
Latinos, would require substantially more than 50 % of the
population to effectively elect candidates of choice.
Evidence and congressional findings of low Latino rates of
reliance on a bare majority-minority district [could not]
be used to determine an ability district under Section 5.”
Texas, 831 F. Supp. 2d at 264.
That is, Texas held that,
considering the particular circumstances of Latinos in
Texas, § 5 required substantially more than 50 % minority
population in majority-minority districts.
In this case, there is significant evidence that, in
light of much-improved black voter mobilization and nearuniversal citizenship, the black voting population in
significantly lower levels of population than the Texas
suggests that in Alabama black voters need to be only
about 50 % of a given district to be able to elect
representatives of choice. See Arrington Report, NPX 323,
at 17; Lichtman Report, NPX 324, at 21-2.
If that is so,
then even if the legislature substantially reduced the
percentage of black residents of, for example, HD 55 (73 %
black), black residents would still have the ability to
elect candidates of choice there.
The point is not that
the State was required to lower the black percentage of
Rather, it is that § 5 did not prohibit the State
from doing so.
And, that being the case, the State here
cannot claim that the VRA required it to maintain HD 55
with 73 % black people.
Therefore, the drafters’ conduct
was not narrowly tailored.
The majority has found that much of the evidence that
black voters can elect candidates of choice with little
more than a bare majority is not credible, and therefore
concluded that the record can support no conclusion about
the minimum level of black population necessary to allow
black voters to elect candidates of choice.
with those factual determinations; in particular, I can
discern no legitimate basis in the record for the majority
to find Arrington’s testimony not credible.
at 151-2 (rejecting Arrington’s testimony) with Tr. Vol.
III at 81-2; Arrington Report, NPX 323, at 19; id. at 17;
Tr. Vol. III at 64-5 (Arrington giving reasonable and
unrebutted explanations for supposed inconsistencies).
would credit Arrington’s testimony on this issue.
determination one way or the other regarding the level of
black population necessary to elect candidates of choice,
see ante at 99, in the context of racial gerrymandering
that conclusion can only harm the State’s case.
burden is on it to establish that it had a “strong basis
in evidence”, Miller, 515 U.S. at 922, for the need for
their purported solution, namely striving to fill racial
If it has not shown a strong basis in evidence,
because the record can support no conclusion one way or
The drafters’ failure to take any steps to examine
what § 5 actually required in this case underscores that
these plans are not narrowly tailored.
participation in Alabama, did not look at variations among
black communities, and did not use the political data he
had available to examine effectiveness of majority-black
Tr. Vol. III at 148-150.37
that he did not inquire at all into what level of black
37. Specifically, with regard to his decision to
abolish and relocate HD 53, Hinaman testified at his
deposition that if he had maintained nine majority-black
districts in Jefferson County their black populations
might have been lowered.
“They may have gone from 60
percent to 51 or something like that, and I didn't think
that was -- I thought that would potentially create
preclearance issues.” APX 75, at 61. He stated that he
never tried to draw nine such districts.
believed it would be possible to do so. Id. at 86.
population would be necessary to avoid retrogression in a
“Q. So your testimony is that you really
didn’t look into the behavior of
simply went by the black -- the number
of black people, the black percentage in
the district. And what you did was try
and at least maintain that or increase
it. Is that your -- fair statement of
“A. That's fair, yes.”
Tr. Vol. I at 133-4. Had any of the drafters analyzed the
available data, they might (or might not) have had a
“strong basis in evidence,” Miller, 515 U.S. at 922, to
conclude that § 5 required them to maintain the high
percentages of black population; as they did nothing of
the sort, they had nothing but guesses.
And that is not
enough to justify the use of racial quotas in drawing
The question here is whether the State was required
by the VRA to seek out black people to add to the already
heavily black majority-minority districts in order to
achieve their racial quotas.
And the clear answer is no.
individuals by race at all, or only to do so to the extent
actually required by the VRA, and instead to use other
districting principles to draw those lines.
have been guided
Instead, the drafters reached out and
grabbed as many black people as possible to achieve their
racial quotas even as the total population of those
The conclusion is as clear as day: the
reading of the statute, and so cannot survive as narrowly
Even if the drafters’ racial quotas were somehow
required by § 5, that would not be enough to save these
preclearance requirements of § 5. The Alabama Legislative
Black Caucus plaintiffs argue that the State cannot now
rely on § 5 to justify its racial gerrymander because of
the Supreme Court’s intervening decision in Shelby County,
133 S.Ct. 2612, which was handed down after this case was
filed but before trial. The majority responds that Shelby
County struck down only § 4 of the VRA, 42 U.S.C. § 1973b,
the formula for determining whether a jurisdiction is
covered by § 5, but left § 5 itself undisturbed. However,
without § 4, and absent further action by Congress,
Alabama is no longer a covered jurisdiction subject to § 5
and need not obtain preclearance.
See Shelby County, 133
S. Ct. at 2632 n.1 (Ginsberg, J., dissenting) (noting that
“without th[e] formula, § 5 is immobilized”).38
38. A jurisdiction may still be required to obtain
preclearance of redistricting plans, even after Shelby
County, under the “bail-in” provision of § 3 of the VRA.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1973a(c); Shelby County, 679 F.3d at 855.
That provision “authorizes courts to impose preclearance
in response to violations of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendments.” Travis Crum, Note, The Voting Rights Act’s
Secret Weapon: Pocket Trigger Litigation and Dynamic
Preclearance, 119 Yale L.J. 1992, 2006 (2010). The state
The majority then concludes that, even if compliance
with § 5 is not now a compelling interest, the State’s
actions should be evaluated based on the circumstances
when the plans were enacted, not those of the time of
judgment. I disagree. These plans have not yet gone into
effect, and “changed circumstances may ... transform a
compelling interest into a less than compelling one.”
United States v. Antoine, 318 F.3d 919, 921 (9th Cir.
Indeed, when it comes to racial classifications,
See•Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, 238
analysis is whether race-based solution “was appropriately
of the VRA is in flux at the moment, and it is unclear to
what extent this provision will be utilized to fill the
ag-speech-130725.html (Attorney General noting that he
will seek a court order subjecting Texas to preclearance
after Shelby County).
However, Alabama has not been
“bailed-in” and is therefore currently not subject to any
limited such that it ‘will not last longer than the
Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U.S. 448, 513 (1980) (Powell,
Here, relying on the fact that § 5 was
still applicable at the time the drafters designed the
plans, the State asks us to approve a race-based solution
that has not only already outlived its problem, but also
one that will be in effect into the next decade, through
the 2020 census.39
But the question in strict-scrutiny
analysis is not whether the drafters acted in “good faith”
when they enacted these plans, see Fisher, 133 S. Ct. at
2421, nor in strict scrutiny do we grant the kind of
deference to which States are often entitled in other
areas of law.
See id. at 2420.
In the absence of an
actual compelling interest at the time of judgment, the
court cannot approve a racial gerrymander.
39. Indeed, because this plan will continue to be in
effect for years, I would find that it was not narrowly
tailored even if it had already gone into effect; in
strict scrutiny, we simply cannot allow unjustified
racial classifications to continue.
There is perhaps one last unarticulated premise to
One might think that the plaintiffs here, who
are mostly black legislators and voters, should lose on
their Shaw claims because the majority-black districts
were drawn for their benefit.
The plaintiffs in Shaw and
its progeny were, after all, white voters who objected to
the creation of majority-minority districts.
It may be
thought that there is some incongruity to black voters
bringing the same charge against districts in which they
are the majority.
The Supreme Court’s equal protection cases teach that
it is sometimes difficult to discern when a race-conscious
policy inures to the benefit of a minority group and when
it covertly prejudices them.
See Vera, 517 U.S. at 984
(plurality opinion)(“we subject racial classifications to
necessary to determine whether they are benign”); Parents
Involved, 551 U.S. at 742 (plurality opinion of Roberts,
C.J.)(“History should teach greater humility” than to
Justice Thomas recently observed, “The worst forms of
racial discrimination in this Nation have always been
discrimination helped minorities.”
Fisher, 133 S. Ct. at
2429 (Thomas, J., concurring).
In this case, there is a deep dispute regarding the
legislative purpose behind these plans.
According to the
drafters, they sought nothing more than to comply with
their legal duties and honor their colleagues’ wishes as
far as that was possible.
According to the plaintiffs,
eliminate all white Democrats in the State and thereby
establish the Republican Party as the natural home for all
white Alabamians, leaving the Democratic Party comprised
of only black voters and legislators.
In furtherance of
that scheme, the plaintiffs claim, the drafters packed as
many black people as possible into the majority-black
districts, thereby eliminating their influence anywhere
All this, the plaintiffs claim, was done under the
pretext of seeking to comply with § 5, while in reality
Apparently for this reason, no black
legislator voted in favor of these plans.
In my view, we need not resolve the question of the
plaintiffs’ other claims.
For, again, to me this case is
In drawing the majority-black districts, Hinaman
and the others were driven by an overriding consideration:
the race of those individuals who would be included in or
excluded from those districts. They adopted racial quotas
for each district, and they went to extraordinary lengths
to achieve those quotas.
Whether they did so in a good-
faith belief that the quotas were required by § 5, or for
some invidious purpose, is ultimately of no consequence
for the Shaw claims.
But that they did so is as clear as
justification for the use of racial quotas, the plans are
unconstitutional, and I would so hold.
There is a cruel irony to these cases.
year, the State of Alabama passionately argued to the
requirements of preclearance. See Br. of State of Alabama
as Amicus Curiae, Shelby County, available at 2013 WL
Noting that “Our country has changed,” the
discrimination in voting failed to “speak to current
Shelby County, 133 S.Ct. at 2631.
The evidence here is overwhelming that the State has
intentionally singled out individuals based on race and
cabined them into district after district.
of majority-black districts was driven by naked racial
quotas; that alone is enough to condemn these plans.
Alabama argues that these percentages were justified by,
of all things, § 5.
Even as it was asking the Supreme
Court to strike down the requirement of preclearance for
failure to speak to current conditions, the State of
Alabama was relying on racial quotas with absolutely no
conditions, and seeking to justify those quotas with the
very provision it was helping to render inert.
To be sure, conditions 30 years ago or 20 years ago
justified requiring high percentages of black population
in majority-black districts.
Indeed, as I now consider
Alabama’s and the majority’s argument that the record
justifies these high racial percentages, I feel as if I
were in a time warp carried back into the past, with the
arguments being the same but with the parties having
But, again, the issue here is, What are
the conditions today?
Not, what they were back then.
As a nation, we must continue to strive towards “the
goal of a political
Shaw, 509 U.S. at 657.
race no longer
But plans like the ones
the Alabama legislature has adopted take us in the wrong
direction; they continue to “balkanize us into competing
racial factions,” id., “carving [us] into racial blocs.”
Miller, 515 U.S. at 927.
The problem is not that these
plans consider race, for some consideration of race is
permissible and even required by the VRA.
The problem is
that these plans adopt severe racial quotas–-seeking to
match numbers as high as 78 % black–-with no evidence or
even real argument that their extreme reliance on race is
The Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of race
Therefore, just as the Supreme Court, in applying
principles of federalism, found in Shelby County that
Congress’s remedy for racial discrimination in voting
failed to “speak to current conditions,” Shelby County,
133 S.Ct. at 2631, this court, applying strict scrutiny,
And just as the Supreme Court sent
Congress back to the drawing board, this court should send
the Alabama Legislature back as well.40
Moreover, because these plans have not gone into
effect, there is ample time for the Alabama Legislature to
come up with plans that accede to the request made by all
of Alabama’s black legislators, a request that is not only
a legitimate and laudable one but is, in fact, the only
decennial reapportionment, as required by one-person-one40. Interestingly, the majority observes that
“Governor Wallace and segregation are long gone, and
Alabama has virtually eliminated any racial gap in voter
registration or participation,” citing to the State’s
evidence submitted in the Shelby County. Ante at 172.
But this, if true, is exactly my point too.
pointed question remains, Why these high racial
percentages today? Why these racial quotas today?
vote, based more on traditional districting factors (such
compactness, contiguity, and incumbency) and based far
less on race.
Fashioning and implementing such a remedy would not
Without a doubt, if, following the 2010
census, the Alabama Legislature had not used these naked
racial quotas in redistricting for the House and Senate,
the plans it would have adopted would not be the ones
before us today.
Therefore, my command to the State in
redrawing the plans would be simple and direct: Get rid of
racial percentages, that is, the naked racial quotas, that
the State incorrectly believed § 5 to require.
considerations, and may even be required under § 2 of the
VRA, naked racial quotas (that is, racial line-drawing not
rooted in and compelled by a sensitive assessment of
current conditions) are unconstitutional.
Therefore, because the plans before this court rely
on quotas to cabin individuals into districts based on the
race of those individuals in an intentional, unjustified,
and thus illegal manner, I cannot give the plans my
I respectfully dissent.
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