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Bush v. Vera


The Voting Rights Act seeking protection of the electoral minority seemed at odds with the Equal Protection Clause because, in seeking to protect minority rights and preserve majority privilege, each statute was oppositionally focused. After Shaw v. Reno (1993), the Supreme Court's strict (districting) scrutiny analysis applied to newly created districts. However, states experienced great difficulty creating new districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act while simultaneously satisfying the Equal Protection Clause. To add to the confusion, districts created to protect minorities' electoral rights in the state of Texas (supported by the Department of Justice and various civil organizations), were declared unconstitutionally formed by the Supreme Court.

The 1990 census prompted states to reconfigure voting districts to enable minorities to elect their own representatives to Congress. New districts often relied heavily on racial considerations while simultaneously applying traditional districting principles. The excessive use of the racial factor in creating new "minority districts" (a majority of voters of one ethnicity) led to challenges in district courts and the U.S. Supreme Court for alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause.

Shaw v. Reno (1993) and Miller v. Johnson (1995) were milestones in the U.S. Supreme Court's view of the constitutionality of redistricting. In these two cases, the Court abandoned the pre-1990 census practice of assessing the constitutionality of redistricting under the Equal Protection Clause, which defined identifiable harm as infringement of rights of an individual voter (who was a member of a class subjected to differential treatment by redistricting changes). This practice held that there were tangible, unconstitutional consequences of racial considerations in redistricting. Shaw and Miller thus established the Court's principal of "reasonable" use of racial factors in redistricting by identifying putative harm as nonracial traditional districting principles subordinated by racial considerations. Because all new "majority-minority" districts were thus struck down, the Court's rulings provoked controversy concerning the dilution of the previous standard and the protection of a minority's right to have congressional representatives. Yet, the Supreme Court affirmed this practice in Bush v. Vera.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentBush v. Vera - Significance, Three Districts Challenged, A Difficult Decision, Impact, Further Readings