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Opinion of the Court

Interference by the Justice Department, leading the state legislature to act based on an overriding concern with race, disturbed any sound basis to defer to the 1991 unprecleared plan; the unconstitutional predominance of race in the provenance of the Second and Eleventh Districts of the 1992 precleared plan caused them to be improper departure points; and the proposals for either two or three majority-black districts in plans urged upon the trial court in the remedy phase were flawed by evidence of predominant racial motive in their design. In these circumstances, the trial court acted well within its discretion in deciding it could not draw two majority-black districts without itself engaging in racial gerrymandering.

II

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The court-ordered plan is not violative of $ 2 of the Voting Rights Act. We reject appellants' contrary position, which is premised on impermissible vote dilution in the court's failure to create a second majority-black district. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies to any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice, or procedure ... imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision. 42 U. S. C. $ 1973(a). On its face, $2 does not apply to a court-ordered remedial redistricting plan, but we will assume courts should comply with the section when exercising their equitable powers to redistrict. A violation of $2 occurs if “it is shown that the political processes leading to nomination or election in the State or political subdivision are not equally open to participation by members of [a racial minority) ... in that its members have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” 42 U. S. C. $ 1973(b).

Our decision in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U. S. 30 (1986), set out the basic framework for establishing a vote dilution claim against at-large, multimember districts; we have since extended the framework to single-member districts. Growe

Opinion of the Court

v. Emison, 507 U. S. 25, 40–41 (1993). Plaintiffs must show three threshold conditions: first, the minority group “is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district"; second, the minority group is “politically cohesive”; and third, the majority “votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it ... to defeat the minority's preferred candidate.” 478 U. S., at 50–51. Once plaintiffs establish these conditions, the court considers whether, “on the totality of circumstances," minorities have been denied an “equal opportunity” to “participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice." 42 U. S. C. § 1973(b).

The trial court found that to create a second majorityblack district in Georgia would require subordinating Georgia's traditional districting policies and allowing race to predominate. 922 F. Supp., at 1566. We considered the determination in our discussion above and concluded it was well founded. If race is the predominant motive in creating districts, strict scrutiny applies, Bush v. Vera, 517 U. S. 952, 962 (1996), and the districting plan must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest in order to survive. We have assumed, without deciding, that compliance with $2 can be a compelling state interest. See, e.g., id., at 977; Miller v. Johnson, 515 U. S., at 921. Here, there was no “strong basis in evidence,” Shaw v. Reno, 509 U. S., at 656 (internal quotation marks omitted), to conclude that vote dilution, in violation of $ 2, would occur in consequence of the court's plan. In fact, none of the three Gingles factors, the threshold findings for a vote dilution claim, were established here. See Bush, supra, at 976–979.

Here the District Court found, without clear error, that the black population was not sufficiently compact for a second majority-black district. 922 F. Supp., at 1567. So the first of the Gingles factors is not satisfied. As we have noted before, $2 does not require a State to create, on predominantly racial lines, a district that is not “reasonably

Opinion of the Court

compact.” Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U. S. 997, 1008 (1994). And the $2 compactness inquiry should take into account “traditional districting principles such as maintaining communities of interest and traditional boundaries.” Bush, supra, at 977.

The trial court also found the second and third Gingles factors—the extent of racially polarized voting-wanting. In the Eleventh District inquiry, the District Court found that $2 did not justify drawing racial lines, and it discussed evidence of racial polarization at great length. The court found the statistical evidence was for the most part inconclusive and conflicting, but that the State's expert, Dr. Joseph Katz, was convincing in his refutation of Dr. Allan Lichtman, the United States' expert. 864 F. Supp., at 1388. The court found “a significant degree of crossover voting in Georgia and the Eleventh District," id., at 1390, and that the record “fail[ed] to demonstrate ... chronic bloc voting,” id., at 1392. The court found that the average percentage of whites voting for black candidates across Georgia ranged from 22% to 38%, and the average percentage of blacks voting for white candidates ranged from 20% to 23%. Id., at 1390. As the court noted, “[b]lack and black-preferred candidates in Georgia have achieved many electoral victories in local and statewide elections and have received significant-occasionally overwhelming-support from both black and white voters within the Eleventh Congressional District.” Id., at 1390– 1391. The results of the 1992 Democratic primary in the Eleventh District suggested to the court “a general willingness of white voters to vote for black candidates": black candidates in that primary received about 55% of the white vote, and Cynthia McKinney, a black, won the runoff against a white with 23% of the white vote. Id., at 1391.

For the inquiry concerning the Second District and the remedy, appellants relied exclusively on the Eleventh District trial record. After the remedy hearing, the District Court reaffirmed its earlier findings and cited additional evi

Opinion of the Court

dence of crossover voting. 922 F. Supp., at 1567. At the hearing concerning the Second District, Ms. Meggers stated that election results in the district indicated significant white crossover voting, and Representative Sanford Bishop, the black congressman elected in the Second District, agreed. Tr. 438, 142 (Oct. 30, 1995).

Appellants take issue with the District Court's assessment of the level of white crossover voting, but argue that, in any event, the level of polarization the District Court found is sufficient to satisfy the Gingles threshold. Under the circumstances, we cannot say the District Court clearly erred in finding insufficient racial polarization in voting to meet the Gingles requirements. The results of the 1996 general elections tend to support the District Court's earlier finding of “a general willingness of white voters to vote for black candidates.” 864 F. Supp., at 1391. All three black incumbents won elections under the court plan, two in majoritywhite districts running against white candidates. (In Gingles, the Court indicated that incumbency is a “special circumstanc[e]” to be taken into account in evaluating racial bloc voting. 478 U. S., at 57. And in this action, the black candidates' success in two majority-white districts, quite different from their previous districts, is testimony to the "general willingness” of whites to vote for blacks.) These results also underscore the weakness of the Justice Department's methodology of calculating the likelihood of a blackpreferred candidate winning based on strict racial percentages. Brief for United States 27, and n. 18. The Justice Department predicted that a black-preferred candidate “would likely be foreclosed from winning” in the court plan's Tenth District, and that "[t]he same result would follow even more clearly” in the court's Fourth District, which had a black voting age population of 33%. Id., at 27. In fact, Representative McKinney won in the Fourth District.

Appellants argue the District Court's findings on $2 are inconsistent and not owed deference, since the court held $ 2

Opinion of the Court

required maintenance of the majority-black Fifth District but not creation of a new majority-black district. The District Court found the black population in the Fifth District “is sufficiently compact and, being an urban minority population, has a sufficiently strong community of interest to warrant being a majority-minority district.” 922 F. Supp., at 1568. The court also said the probability of electing a candidate is below 50% when the percentage of black registered voters is 50%, ibid., and therefore the percentage of black registered voters should be kept as close to 55% as possible in the Fifth District. (The District Court noted, however, that it was uncomfortable using percentages of registered voters rather than voting age population, since “that in essence condones voter apathy.Id., at 1568, n. 18.) The court made no explicit findings about differences in the racial polarization of voting between the Fifth and Eleventh Districts.

We do not agree that the District Court's maintenance of the Fifth District as a majority-black district under $2 indicates its $2 findings in reference to other districts are conflicting and not entitled to deference. The District Court noted that maintenance of a majority-black district in the Atlanta area-created in 1972 for compliance with the Voting Rights Act—had become a state districting policy. Id., at 1565. Further, it is possible, although we do not express any opinion on the subject, that changing the racial majority of the district would have violated $5 retrogression principles.

Private appellants also argue no deference is due the District Court's $2 finding both because the court did not hold a separate hearing on whether its remedial plan violated § 2 and because it barred private intervention to defend the constitutionality of the Second District. We do not agree. First, neither our precedents nor the Act require the court to hold a separate hearing on the adequacy under $2 of a remedial plan. Second, the private defendant-intervenors

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