Racial Gerrymandering - Parks Chesin & Walbert
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Racial Gerrymandering

In Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995), the Supreme Court held that racial gerrymanders are unconstitutional.  The case concerned the extent to which states can consider race in the drawing of congressional districts.  Prior to the 1990 congressional redistricting, the state of Georgia had only one majority black congressional district.  The 1990 Census revealed that the state’s population was 27% black.  The General Assembly initially constructed a redistricting plan that created one additional congressional district with a majority black population.  However, under pressure from the U.S. Justice Department, Georgia redrew its plan and intentionally drew third majority black district.  This plan became known as the “max-black” plan.


A. Lee Parks represented voters in the district, arguing that racial gerrymandering violated the U.S. Constitution.  The State of Georgia argued that the state had a legitimate interest in proportional representation.  In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Georgia’s use of race, above all other considerations, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.


Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy wrote,


Only if our political system and our society cleanse themselves of that discrimination will all members of the polity share an equal opportunity to gain public office regardless of race. As a Nation we share both the obligation and the aspiration of working toward this end. The end is neither assured nor well served, however, by carving electorates into racial blocs. If our society is to continue to progress as a multiracial democracy, it must recognize that the automatic invocation of race stereotypes retards that progress and causes continued hurt and injury.


Miller v. Johnson is a frequently cited Supreme Court decision in the area of voting rights and redistricting and secured Lee Parks’s position as an authority in the area of racial gerrymandering.

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