Magnolia Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Lee ( 1993 )


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  •                                     United States Court of Appeals,
    
                                                   Fifth Circuit.
    
                                                   No. 92-7529.
    
                  MAGNOLIA BAR ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
    
                                                         v.
    
                                Roy Noble LEE, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
    
                                                   July 9, 1993.
    
    Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.
    
    Before POLITZ, Chief Judge, KING, and DUHÉ, Circuit Judges.
    
            KING, Circuit Judge:
    
            The plaintiffs in this case filed suit against various officials of the State of Mississippi, alleging
    
    that Mississippi's current method of electing supreme court judges violates section 2 et seq. of the
    
    Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973 et seq. The district court rejected the plaintiffs' section
    
    2 claim and dismissed their complaint. The plaintiffs now appeal. For the following reasons, we
    
    affirm the decision of the district court.
    
                                                 I. BACKGROUND
    
            The Mississippi Supreme Court is the state's court of last resort in both criminal and civil
    
    matters. It currently consists of nine judges who are selected for eight year terms in partisan
    
    elections. Vacancies are filled by the Governor, with special elections held for the unexpired term.
    
    Candidates for the Mississippi Supreme Court must meet age, residency, and professional
    
    qualifications, which are set forth in the Mississippi Constitution. See MISS. CONST. art. VI, § 150.
    
            The state of Mississippi is divided into three east-west districts for purposes of electing
    
    supreme court judges. That is, three judges are elected from t he Northern District, the Central
    
    District, and the Southern District of the state. In each of the three east-west districts, then,
    
    Mississippi Supreme Court judges are chosen in at-large, partisan elections.
    
            On August 17, 1990, the Magnolia Bar Association, the Mississippi State Conference of the
    
    NAACP, the Rainbow Coalition, the Mississippi Association of Black Supervisors, the Mississippi
    Conference of Black Mayors, and four black citizens and registered voters of Mississippi (collectively,
    
    "Plaintiffs"), filed suit against various state officials (collectively, "Defendants"). The Plaintiffs
    
    alleged, among other things, that Mississippi's method of electing supreme court judges violates
    
    section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 42 U.S.C. § 1973.1 As a remedy, the Plaintiffs sought
    
    single-member election districts, or in the alternative, an election scheme using limited or cumulative
    
    voting.
    
              The Plaintiffs' section 2 claim proceeded to trial on February 25, 1992. During trial, the
    
    Plaintiffs advanced several theories of section 2 liability. First, they presented evidence designed to
    
    challenge the current multimember election districts—i.e., evidence suggesting that the multimember
    
    election districts, as currently drawn, dilute black voting strength. They also levelled a "vote
    
    fragmentation" challenge to the current election scheme, arguing that the current east-west district
    
    lines impermissibly fracture black voting strength, which is concentrated in the western segment of
    
    Mississippi.       Finally, the Plaintiffs offered evidence designed to prove a "hybrid"
    
    line-drawing/multimember section 2 claim. Specifically, they presented evidence designed to show
    
    that Mississippi's multimember districting scheme, when combined with the east-west districting lines,
    
    operates to cancel out or minimize black voting strength.
    
              The district court rejected each of the theories of section 2 liability advanced by the Plaintiffs.
    
    See Magnolia Bar Ass'n v. Lee, 
    793 F. Supp. 1386
     (S.D.Miss.1992). With regard to the Plaintiffs'
    
    straightforward challenge to the current multimember election districts, the court first determined
    
    that, in the Northern and Southern Districts, the Plaintiffs had failed to adduce evidence sufficient to
    
    satisfy the first threshold requirement of Thornburg v. Gingles, 
    478 U.S. 30
    , 
    106 S. Ct. 2752
    , 
    92 L. Ed. 2d 25
     (1986) (i.e., they failed to demonstrate that blacks would constitute a majority of the
    
    voting age population in any of the proposed single member districts). See 793 F.Supp. at 1401-02.
    
    The court also concluded that, in the Central District, the Plaintiffs had failed to satisfy the third
    
       1
        The Plaintiffs also asserted claims under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, under the
    Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and under Mississippi
    law. On September 24, 1991, a three-judge panel granted the Defendants' motion for partial
    summary judgment on the Plaintiffs' section 5 claim. And, by pre-trial order, the Plaintiffs
    voluntarily dismissed all claims except their section 2 claim.
    Gingles threshold requirement (i.e., they failed to demonstrate a pattern of legally significant white
    
    bloc voting). See 793 F.Supp. at 1405-07. As for the Plaintiffs' straightforward vote fragmentation
    
    claim, the district court determined that it also failed on the first Gingles threshold requirement. The
    
    district court specifically concluded that, even if north-south districts were drawn, blacks would not
    
    constitute a majority of the voting age population in any of the three proposed multimember districts.
    
    See 793 F.Supp. at 1414-15. Finally, with respect to the Plaintiffs' hybrid challenge, the district court
    
    determined that, although the Plaintiffs had satisfied the Gingles threshold requirements, their claim
    
    failed under the totality of the circumstances inquiry. See 793 F.Supp. at 1415-18.
    
            Ultimately, the district court concluded that the Plaintiffs "failed to prove by a preponderance
    
    of the evidence any violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965." 793 F.Supp. at 1418.
    
    The district court accordingly entered judgment in favor of the Defendants and dismissed the case.
    
    The Plaintiffs now appeal.
    
                                  II. GOVERNING LEGAL PRINCIPLES
    
    A. The Section 2 Framework
    
            Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, prohibits states and political
    
    subdivisions from employing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting or standard, practice,
    
    or procedure ... in a manner which results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the
    
    United States to vote on account of race or color." 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a). Section 2 further provides
    
    that
    
            A violation ... is established if, based on the totality of the circumstances, 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 protected class] ... 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.
    
    Id. § 1973(b). Finally, section 2 instructs that, although courts should consider "the extent to which
    
    members of a protected class have been elect ed to office in the State or political subdivision," the
    
    protected class has no "right to have members .. elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the
    
    population." Id.
    
            It is settled in this circuit that section 2 claims must be analyzed under a two-part framework.
    To prevail on such a claim, a class of minority voters must first satisfy certain threshold requirements
    
    set forth by the Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles, 
    478 U.S. 30
    , 
    106 S. Ct. 2752
    , 
    92 L. Ed. 2d 25
     (1986). Minority voters must then offer evidence of the circumstances of the local political
    
    landscape—many of which Congress specifically listed in the 1982 amendments to section 2 as being
    
    relevant to the inquiry. Ultimately, the Gingles threshold inquiry and the broad, totality of
    
    circumstances inquiry are designed to probe whether the challenged election practice "has resulted
    
    in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote based on color or race." Chisom v. Roemer, --- U.S.
    
    ----, ----, 
    111 S. Ct. 2354
    , 2363, 
    115 L. Ed. 2d 348
     (1991).
    
    1. The Gingles Threshold Inquiry
    
            The Gingles threshold inquiry, which was first formulated in the context of a challenge to a
    
    multimember election scheme, is a relatively narrow one. To satisfy it, the minority group must prove
    
    by a preponderance of evidence that (1) it is sufficiently large and geographically compact to
    
    constitute a majority in a single member district, (2) its members are politically cohesive, and (3) the
    
    white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it—in the absence of special
    
    circumstances—usually to defeat the minority group's preferred candidate. Gingles, 478 U.S. at 48-
    
    51, 106 S.Ct. at 2765-67. Failure to establish any one of the Gingles factors precludes a section 2
    
    violation, because "[t]hese circumstances are necessary preconditions for multimember districts to
    
    operate to impair minority voters' ability to elect representatives of their choice." Id. at 50, 106 S.Ct.
    
    at 2766.
    
            Although formulated in t he context of a challenge to a multimember election scheme, the
    
    Gingles threshold inquiry also applies to other types of section 2 claims. In Growe v. Emison, ---
    
    U.S. ----, 
    113 S. Ct. 1075
    , 
    122 L. Ed. 2d 388
     (1993), a unanimous Supreme Court held that the
    
    minority plaintiffs, who were alleging that single-member district lines, as currently drawn,
    
    fragmented their voting strength, had to satisfy all three of the Gingles threshold requirements. And,
    
    in Voinovich v. Quilter, --- U.S. ----, 
    113 S. Ct. 1149
    , 
    122 L. Ed. 2d 500
     (1993), a case in which the
    
    plaintiffs alleged that the existing district lines diluted minority influence over elections, the Supreme
    
    Court reiterated that the Gingles threshold factors have relevance not only to challenges to
    multimember districting schemes, but also to other types of section 2 challenges. Writing for a
    
    unanimous Court, Justice O'Connor stated:
    
            Of course, the Gingles factors cannot be applied mechanically and without regard to the
            nature of the claim. For example, the first Gingles precondition, the requirement that the
            group be sufficiently large to constitute a majority in a single district, would have to be
            modified or eliminated when analyzing the influence-dilution claim we assume arguendo to
            be actionable today. The complaint in such a case is not that black voters have been deprived
            of the ability to constitute a majority, but of the possibility of being a sufficiently large
            minority to elect their candidate of choice with the assistance of cross-over votes from the
            white majority.
    
    Id. at ----, 113 S.Ct. at 1157.
    
    2. The Totality of Circumstances Inquiry
    
            Once the minority group satisfies the Gingles threshold inquiry, it must then offer evidence
    
    of the circumstances of the local political landscape—evidence demonstrating that "its members have
    
    less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and elect
    
    representatives of their choice." 42 U.S.C. § 1973(b). In the Senate Report accompanying the 1982
    
    amendments to section 2, Congress listed several factors that will typically be relevant to the totality
    
    of circumstances inquiry. See S.REP. No. 417, 97th Cong., 2d Sess., at 28-29, (1982), reprinted in
    
    1982 U.S.C.C.A.N. 177, 206-07. These include:
    
            a. the extent of any history of official discrimination in the state or political subdivision that
                    touched the right of the members of the minority group to register, to vote, or
                    otherwise to participate in the democratic process;
    
            b. the extent to which voting in the elections of the state or political subdivision is racially
                    polarized;
    
            c. the extent to which the state or political subdivision has used unusually large election
                    districts, majority vote requirements, anti-single shot provisions, or other voting
                    practices or procedures that may enhance the opportunity for discrimination against
                    the minority group;
    
            d. whether members of the minority group have been denied access to [any candidate slating]
                   process;
    
            e. the extent to which members of the minority group in the state or political subdivision bear
                    the effects of discrimination in such areas as education, employment and health, which
                    hinder their ability to participate effectively in the political process;
    
            f. whether political campaigns have been characterized by overt or subtle racial appeals;
                   [and]
    
            g. the extent to which members of the minority group have been elected to public office in the
                    jurisdiction.
    
    Id. at 28-29, 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at 206-07 (footnotes omitted). In the same report, Congress also
    
    listed two "[a]dditional factors that in some cases have had probative value ... to establ ish a
    
    violation." Id. at 29, 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at 207. They are:
    
            h. whether there is a significant lack of responsiveness on the part of elected officials to the
                   particularized needs of the members of the minority group; [and]
    
            i. whether the policy underlying the state or po litical subdivision's use of such voting
                   qualification, prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice or procedure is tenuous.
    
    Id. at 29, 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at 207. Finally, Congress noted that, "[w]hile these enumerated factors
    
    will often be the most relevant ones, in some cases other factors will be indicative of the alleged
    
    dilution." Id., 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at 207.
    
            Ultimately, a district court can find a section 2 violation only if, "in the particular situation,
    
    the [challenged] practice operate[s] to deny the minority plaintiff[s] an equal opportunity to
    
    participate [in the political process] and to elect candidates of their choice." Id. at 30, 1982
    
    U.S.C.A.A.N. at 207.       The Senate Report instructs courts not to become bogged down in
    
    "mechanical "point counting'," id. at 29 n. 118, 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at 207 n. 118, but rather, to make
    
    a "searching practical evaluation of the [locality's] "past and present reality,' " id. at 30, 1982
    
    U.S.C.A.A.N. at 208. "[T]here is no requirement that any particular number of [the Senate] factors
    
    be proved, or that a majority of them point one way or another." Id. at 29, 1982 U.S.C.A.A.N. at
    
    207.
    
    B. Standard of Appellate Review
    
            Because a district court's findings in a section 2 case are "peculiarly dependent upon the facts
    
    of each case" and require "an int ensely local appraisal of the design and impact of the contested
    
    electoral mechanisms," we review those findings under the clearly erroneous standard of review. See
    
    Gingles, 478 U.S. at 79, 106 S.Ct. at 2781. If the district court applies the correct legal standards,
    
    we will not set aside its findings under the Gingles threshold inquiry, the totality of circumstances
    
    inquiry, and the ultimate vote dilution inquiry unless we are "left with the definite and firm conviction
    
    that a mistake has been committed." Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 
    470 U.S. 564
    , 573, 
    105 S. Ct. 1504
    , 1511, 
    84 L. Ed. 2d 518
     (1985). That is, "[i]f the district court's account of the evidence
    
    is plausible in light of the record viewed in its entirety," its findings will not be reversed. Id. at 573-
    
    74, 105 S.Ct. at 1511-12.
    
                                                III. ANALYSIS
    
            The outcome of this appeal turns on the district court's application of the Gingles threshold
    
    requirements. As explained below, the district court did not clearly err in finding that the Plaintiffs
    
    failed to demonstrate legally significant white bloc voting in supreme court elections in the Mississippi
    
    Central District. Nor did the district court clearly err in finding that, if the district lines were drawn
    
    from north to south rather than from east to west, blacks would not constitute a majority of the
    
    voting age population in any of the hypothetical multimember districts. These two findings under the
    
    Gingles threshold inquiry effectively foreclose the Plaintiffs' straightforward challenges to the current
    
    multimember districts and the current district lines, as well as the Plaintiffs' hybrid
    
    line-drawing/multimember challenge. Accordingly, we do not reach the Plaintiffs' arguments with
    
    respect to the district court's findings under the totality of circumstances inquiry.2
    
    A. The Straightforward Multimember District Challenge
    
            The district court first rejected the Plaintiffs' straightforward challenge to Mississippi's current
    
    
       2
         In particular, we do not reach the Plaintiffs' arguments that (a) the district court erred in
    failing to discuss relevant contrary evidence on three critical factors under the totality of
    circumstances inquiry; (b) the district court erred in finding that "the extent to which black
    citizens fail to exercise their obligation to vote diminishes the weight to be given the history of
    official discrimination," 793 F.Supp. at 1408; (c) the district court erred when, considering
    minority electoral success, he took into account the "considerable electoral success ... [which was,
    in part,] attributable to the Voting Rights Act and the Mississippi litigation under it," 793 F.Supp.
    at 1410; (d) the district court erred in finding that the state policies for maintaining the current
    east-west, multimember districts are not tenuous; and (e) the district court erred in concluding
    that the state policies for maintaining the present district lines foreclose the Plaintiffs' section 2
    challenges. Of course, by refusing to reach these arguments, we do not mean to express our
    approval of the particular actions and conclusions about which the Plaintiffs complain.
    
                    In this regard, we also deny the Plaintiffs' motion requesting us to take judicial
            notice of the fact that the Mississippi legislature has enacted a law which establishes an
            intermediate appellate court. This request was made in connection with the Plaintiffs'
            argument that the district court erred in assessing the weight of the state interests
            underlying the current electoral system. Because we are not addressing this argument,
            there is no need to take judicial notice of a statute which possibly calls into question the
            strength of Mississippi's interest in the current electoral scheme.
    multimember districting scheme. With respect the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi,
    
    the district court det ermined that the Plaintiffs could not satisfy the first Gingles threshold factor.
    
    That is, they could not draw a single-member district in either of these areas in which blacks would
    
    constitute a majority of the voting age population. And, with respect to the Central District, the
    
    district court found that, although the Plaintiffs satisfied the first two Gingles threshold factors, they
    
    could not satisfy the third Gingles factor—legally significant white bloc voting. In making this
    
    finding, the district court relied primarily on the fact that the only two blacks who had run for the
    
    Mississippi Supreme Court in the Central District, Judge Anderson in 1986 and Judge Banks in 1991,
    
    defeated their white opponents with significant support from white voters. See 793 F.Supp. at 1405-
    
    1407.
    
            The Plaintiffs argue on appeal that the district court clearly erred in finding no legally
    
    significant white bloc voting in the Central District. They argue specifically that the district court
    
    clearly erred in finding "that the election of Anderson and the election of Banks to the Mississippi
    
    Supreme Court were not aberrational but evidence that whites will not necessarily vote as a bloc for
    
    white candidates having black opponents in Mississippi Supreme Court elections so as to "usually
    
    defeat the minority's preferred candidate.' " 793 F.Supp. at 1407 (quoting, Gingles, 478 U.S. at 51,
    
    106 S.Ct. at 2767). They contend that the only evidence that the election of these two black judges
    
    was not aberrational is the testimony of the Defendants' expert witness, who they contend was not
    
    qualified to render such an opinion. The Plaintiffs point instead to the testimony of their expert, Dr.
    
    Lichtman, who stated that (a) white bloc voting in the Central District is legally significant and (b)
    
    the election of the two black candidates, who were both incumbents, was aberrational. They reason
    
    that, based on his uncontradicted testimony and the evidence of racially divergent voting patterns in
    
    other elections,3 the district court was required to find legally significant white bloc voting in the
    
    
       3
        Dr. Lichtman analyzed three different kinds of election contests pitting black candidates
    against white candidates: judicial elections throughout the state of Mississippi (including Circuit,
    Chancery, and Supreme Court elections); elections in the Second Congressional District; and
    numerous city and county elections. His analyses covered approximately a twenty year period
    and included a wide range of local state, and federal offices. His conclusions were based on these
    studies.
    Central District. We disagree.
    
            The Plaintiffs have not offered any authority, and we can find none, for their assertion that
    
    the district court may only rely on expert conclusions in det ermining whether white bloc voting is
    
    legally significant or whether elections in which whites do not vote as a bloc are aberrational. Indeed,
    
    it seems entirely reasonable to permit the district court to examine the election results offered by both
    
    sides, as well as the circumstances surrounding those elections, and determine for itself—with or
    
    without expert conclusions as to which elections are aberrational—whether the white majority votes
    
    sufficiently as a bloc so as to usually defeat the minority-preferred candidate. The Plaintiffs' argument
    
    that the district court was required to accept their expert's conclusion that the election of two black
    
    judges to the Mississippi Supreme Court was aberrational is, therefore, without merit.
    
            Although a close call, we t hink that the district court could reasonably conclude that the
    
    election of two black judges from the Central District was not aberrational, but rather, probative
    
    evidence that whites would not vote as a bloc so as to usually defeat the preferred supreme court
    
    candidate of black voters. Judge Anderson, the black candidate who defeated a known white
    
    segregationist in 1986, received 58% of the white vote. Judge Banks, who narrowly defeated a
    
    well-known, white chancery judge in 1991, received approximately 30% of the white vote and
    
    virtually unanimous support from blacks. Given this evidence, as well other evidence offered by the
    
    Defendants suggest ing that black and white voters do not generally prefer different candidates in
    
    Mississippi judicial elections, the district court's finding that the election of Anderson and Banks was
    
    not aberrational is plausible in light of the record. Therefore, it is not clearly erroneous.
    
            We also reject the Plaintiffs' related argument that the election of Anderson and Banks had
    
    to be discounted because of their status as incumbents. We recognize that, in Gingles, the Supreme
    
    Court stated that incumbency may be a "special circumstance" that explains isolated minority success
    
    in a community polarized along racial lines. See 478 U.S. at 57, 106 S.Ct. at 2770. The problem
    
    with the Plaintiffs' argument is that the district court had valid reasons for not considering the
    
    incumbency of the black candidates as a "special circumstance." As already noted, both of the
    
    elections were high profile and involved well-known white candidates. Moreover, neither of the two
    black candidates had been incumbents for very long. Anderson was appointed to the Mississippi
    
    Supreme Court in January 1985 and ran for reelection the next year. Banks had to run in a special
    
    election less than a year after he was appointed. Had we been sitting as trier of fact, we may well
    
    have reached a different conclusion about the weight to be given these two elections; however, it
    
    cannot be said that the district court clearly erred in refusing to discount the two Mississippi Supreme
    
    Court elections involving black candidates merely because those candidates were incumbents.
    
            Accordingly, we hold that the district court did not clearly err in finding no legally significant
    
    white bloc voting in Mississippi Supreme Court elections in the Central District. This court has
    
    repeatedly stated that, when st atistical evidence is used to establish legally significant white bloc
    
    voting, the most probative elections are generally those in which a minority candidate runs against
    
    a white candidate. See, e.g., Westw ego Citizens for Better Government v. City of Westwego, 
    872 F.2d 1201
    , 1208 n. 7 (5th Cir.1989). It also follows that elections involving the particular office at
    
    issue will be more relevant than elections involving other offices. At the time of trial, there were only
    
    two supreme court elections in the Central District where a black candidate had opposed a white
    
    candidate, and in both of them, the black candidates, who were also the candidates preferred by black
    
    voters, received substantial support from white voters and won the elections. In light of this
    
    evidence, the district court could reasonably conclude that the Plaintiffs did not meet their burden of
    
    "demonstrat[ing] that the white majority votes sufficiently as a bloc to enable it ... usually to defeat
    
    the minority's preferred candidate." Gingles, 478 U.S. at 51, 106 S.Ct. at 2767 (emphasis added).
    
    B. The Straightforward Line-Drawing or Vote Fragmentation Challenge
    
            The district court also rejected the Plaintiffs' straightforward vote fragmentation challenge.
    
    It noted that, even if district lines were drawn so as to create three north-south multimember districts,
    
    the Plaintiffs would not be able to satisfy the first Gingles threshold factor. The district court
    
    specifically determined that blacks would not constitute a majority of the voting age population in any
    
    of the north-south multimember districts proposed by the Plaintiffs. See 793 F.Supp. at 1414-15.
    
            On appeal, the Plaintiffs do not challenge the district court's findings on their straightforward
    
    vote fragmentation challenge. Indeed, the Plaintiffs' own expert on this question, Senator Kirksey,
    conceded at trial that blacks would not constitute a majority of the voting age population in any of
    
    the proposed north-south multimember districts. Even in the proposed Western District, which
    
    would contain the greatest concentration of blacks, Senator Kirksey opined that the voting age
    
    population would only be 48-49% black. Therefore, on the record before us, the district court
    
    correctly held that the Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the first Gingles requirement with respect to their
    
    straightforward line-drawing or vote fragmentation challenge.4
    
    C. The Hybrid Line-Drawing/Multimember Challenge
    
            Finally, the district court rejected the Plaintiffs' hybrid line-drawing/multimember challenge.
    
    In doing so, the district court disagreed with the Defendants' argument that such a claim is not
    
    cognizable under section 2. The district court then concluded, however, that even if Mississippi were
    
    divided into three north-south districts, and the proposed Western District were further divided into
    
    three subdistricts, the Plaintiffs still could not demonstrate a section 2 violation. The district court
    
    found that, although the Plaintiffs satisfied all three Gingles threshold factors in the proposed Western
    
    District, see 793 F.Supp. at 1415-16, their claim failed under the totality of circumstances inquiry.
    
    The district court specifically found that Mississippi's "valid state policies"—in maintaining east-west
    
    districts and in preserving county lines—foreclosed the Plaintiffs' hybrid claim. See 793 F.Supp. at
    
    1417-18.
    
            We affirm the district court's decision to reject the Plaintiffs' hybrid line-drawing/multimember
    
    challenge, but on other grounds. In particular, we conclude that the district court, having rejected
    
    the Plaintiffs' challenge to the at-large or multimember feature of the Central Supreme Court district,
    
    should have rejected the Plaintiffs' hybrid challenge as seeking to circumvent its finding of no legally
    
    significant white bloc voting.
    
            It is important to understand the implications of the Plaintiffs' hybrid challenge in the context
    
    
       4
        We note that the Plaintiffs have not alleged an "influence dilution" claim. That is, they have
    not argued that the current east-west district lines operate to minimize their ability to influence
    elections. Compare Voinovich, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. at 1157. Rather, the Plaintiffs have
    consistently maintained that they are being deprived of the ability to constitute a majority in a
    Mississippi Supreme Court district. Therefore, we need not decide today whether an influence
    dilution claim is cognizable under section 2.
    of their challenge to the at-large or multimember feature of the current election districts. The hybrid
    
    challenge would allow the Plaintiffs to effectively get around their inability to meet the third Gingles
    
    threshold requirement in the existing Central District, see supra Part III.A.—specifically, by using the
    
    entire state of Mississippi as the challenged election district in order to demonstrate legally significant
    
    white bloc voting.
    
            In our view, the Plaintiffs' inability to show legally significant white bloc voting in the Central
    
    District defeats their hybrid challenge. After all, their proposed subdistrict in the hypothetical
    
    Western District encompasses almost all of the area in their proposed subdistrict in the existing
    
    Central District. Thus, the Plaintiffs are effectively attempting, by casting their claim as a
    
    line-drawing challenge, to attack the multimember aspect of the existing Central District; however,
    
    rather than relying on voting statistics from that district, as required by Gingles,5 the Plaintiffs seek
    
    to rely on statewide voting statistics to establish legally significant white bloc voting.
    
            Accordingly, we hold that the Plaintiffs cannot obviate their failure of proof on the third
    
    Gingles factor in the Central District by looking at some hypothetical district—in this case the state
    
    as a whole. This is the sort of bootstrapping that section 2 does not permit.6
    
                                              IV. CONCLUSION
    
            The district court did not clearly err in finding that the Plaintiffs failed to satisfy the Gingles
    
       5
        According to the Supreme Court's opinion in Gingles, the "inquiry into the existence of vote
    dilution caused by submergence in a multimember district is district specific." 478 U.S. at 59, 106
    S.Ct. at 2771.
       6
         Having held that the Plaintiffs cannot satisfy their burden under the third Gingles factor by
    pointing to voting behavior in a hypothetical district which encompasses the entire state of
    Mississippi, we need not decide (a) whether minority plaintiffs challenging an existing
    multimember election district can add seats to the elected body or (b) whether minority plaintiffs
    challenging the existing district lines can draw extra lines in order to satisfy the first Gingles
    requirement. We recognize that the Seventh Circuit, in McNeil v. Springfield Park Dist., 
    851 F.2d 937
    , 946 (7th Cir.1988), cert denied 
    490 U.S. 1031
    , 
    109 S. Ct. 1769
    , 
    104 L. Ed. 2d 204
    (1989), held that minority plaintiffs cannot hypothetically expand the elected body to satisfy the
    first Gingles factor. One might argue, however, that the considerations implicated by the first
    Gingles requirement, which specifically contemplates the creation of hypothetical districts, are
    distinguishable from the considerations implicated by the second and third Gingles
    requirements—both of which require, in the context of a challenge to the at-large aspect of an
    election scheme, a district-specific analysis of voting behavior. In any event, these questions
    about hypothesizing more seats or drawing more lines to establish the first Gingles requirement
    are best left for another day.
    threshold requirements on their straightforward challenges to the current multimember districts and
    
    the current east-west district lines. As for the Plaintiffs' hybrid line-drawing/multimember challenge,
    
    we hold that it is an attempt to recast the Plaintiffs' challenge to the existing Central District, an
    
    attempt that must fail under the third Gingles factor. We do not reach the Plaintiffs' arguments that
    
    the district court erred in assessing the totality of the circumstances. For these reasons, the district
    
    court's decision dismissing the Plaintiffs' complaint is AFFIRMED.