Bush v. Vera

In Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 972-73, 135 L. Ed. 2d 248, 116 S. Ct. 1941 (1996) the United States Supreme Court applied strict scrutiny review to examine claims that district lines were drawn based on race. However, such review was only applied to those districts where "intensive and pervasive use of race" was used to maximize minority populations irrespective of traditional redistricting guidelines. Id. The Court pointedly confirmed its prior ruling in Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630, 642, 125 L. Ed. 2d 511, 113 S. Ct. 2816 (1993), that the threshold for applying strict scrutiny in this setting is reached only when "redistricting legislation . . . is so extremely irregular on its face that it rationally can be viewed only as an effort to segregate the races for purposes of voting, without regard for traditional districting principles." Id. at 958. Strict scrutiny is not automatically triggered in every case involving the intention to create majority-minority districts or in cases where lines are drawn "with consciousness of race." Id. The Court reiterated that "for strict scrutiny to apply, the plaintiffs must prove that other, legitimate districting principles were subordinated to race" and that race was "the predominant factor." Id. at 959. The parties challenging the redistricting plans did not allege that race was the predominant motive of the Commission in creating the plans or that it subordinated legitimate race-neutral criteria to race. See id. Rather, the complaints are premised on allegations that the Commission improperly applied the constitutional criteria in developing the maps, failed to fulfill its constitutional duties, and thereby violated the plaintiffs' "fundamental right to vote." However, the plans are not so "extremely irregular" that segregation for voting purposes is the only reasonable explanation. See id. at 958.