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United Jewish Organizations v. Carey

Points Of Affirmation

In a 7-1 vote with one abstention, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the lower courts. Justice White, announcing the Court's decision, concluded that the 1974 reapportionment plan for the state of New York and Kings County was not in violation of the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The use of racial criteria in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was warranted in this circumstance. The plan also complied with the requirement that approval of the redistricting be sought from the attorney general as specified in the Voting Rights Act.

White cited five points upon which the decision was made. First, under section five of the Voting Rights Acts, states may not adopt new or revised reapportionment plans without first seeking the approval of either the attorney general of the United States or the District Court for the District of Columbia. In 1972, the state of New York submitted a reapportionment plan which was subsequently denied by the attorney general. In May of 1974, a revised plan was once again submitted and received approval. The attorney general ruled that "the plan [did] not have a racially discriminatory purpose or effect."

The next three points which the Court identified as upholding the decision of the lower courts were based upon the use of racial criteria in establishing nonwhite majorities. As established by the precedent set in Beer v. United States (1976), they found that "[c]ompliance with the Act in reapportionment cases will often necessitate the use of racial considerations in drawing district lines." They interpreted this to mean that there were no statements in the U.S. Constitution that prohibit the use of racial criteria in creating or preserving nonwhite electoral majorities. In conjunction with these considerations, the justices determined that it was permissible to use race to correct an imbalance in voting rights beyond "eliminating the effects of past discriminatory districting or apportionment," not confined to only past discrimination. Justices White, Brennan, Blackmun, and Stevens concluded that the use of "specific numerical quotas"--in this case 65 percent--was not in violation of either the Fourteenth or Fifteenth Amendments. A state is not prohibited from using a specified quota to establish nonwhite majority districts.

The fifth and final point the justices examined was whether or not the redistricting plan increased the nonwhite majority and canceled out the white electoral participation through under-representation. The Hasidic community had already been identified as part of the white voting majority, and therefore, did not have separate protection under the Constitution. The redistricting plan left an approximate 70 percent white majority in the assembly and senate electoral districts for Kings County, which had a county-wide population of 65 percent white. This was a proportionally balanced voting majority, as observed by the court of appeals in New York as well as by the U.S. Supreme Court. The reapportionment plan improved the majority-minority percentage and provided more equitable political power to the nonwhite voters. Justice White, writing for the majority, stated that "there was no fencing out of the white population from participation in the political processes of the county, and the plan did not minimize or unfairly cancel out white voting strength." The white community was equally represented by the electoral majorities based upon their relative share of the county population. White concluded that the plan could be seen as a means to alleviate the consequences of racial voting at the polls and to provide a reasonable allocation of political power between white and nonwhite voters in Kings County.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980United Jewish Organizations v. Carey - Significance, Points Of Affirmation, Impact, Further Readings