377 U.S. 713 (1964), 508, Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

Docket Nº:No. 508
Citation:377 U.S. 713, 84 S.Ct. 1459, 12 L.Ed.2d 632
Party Name:Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado
Case Date:June 15, 1964
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 713

377 U.S. 713 (1964)

84 S.Ct. 1459, 12 L.Ed.2d 632



Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

No. 508

United States Supreme Court

June 15, 1964

Argued March 31-April 1, 1964




Appellants, voters in the Denver metropolitan area, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, sued various officials having duties in connection with state elections challenging the apportionment of seats in both houses of the Colorado General Assembly. A three-judge Federal District Court deferred a hearing until after the 1962 general election at which two proposals for amending the state constitutional provisions relating to legislative apportionment were to be voted on by the Colorado electorate. Under the plan which was adopted, the House of Representatives was presumably to be apportioned on the basis of population, but the existing apportionment of the Senate, based on a combination of population and other factors (geography, compactness and contiguity, accessibility, natural boundaries, and conformity to historical divisions) was substantially maintained. The rejected proposal would have based apportionment of both houses largely on the basis of population. Under the adopted plan, counties with only about one-third of the State's total population would elect a majority of the Senate; the maximum population variance ratio would be about 3.6 to 1; and the chief metropolitan areas, with over two-thirds of the State's population, could elect only a bare majority of the Senate. Following the general election, the parties amended their pleadings so that a challenge to the newly adopted apportionment scheme was solely involved. The District Court, stressing approval by the electorate, held that the recently adopted plan met the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and dismissed the suit.


1. Both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned substantially on a population basis. Reynolds v. Sims, ante, p. 533, followed. P. 734.

2. Though this Court need not pass upon the apportionment of the House, which is not challenged here, the apportionment of

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the Senate under the newly adopted scheme, which is not severable from the apportionment of the House, departs from population-based representation too substantially to be permissible under the Equal Protection Clause. P. 735.

3. A political remedy, such as the initiative and referendum, may justify an equity court in deferring action temporarily on an apportionment plan to allow recourse to such procedure; but such a remedy has no constitutional significance if the plan does not meet equal protection requirements. Pp. 736-737.

4. The disparities from population-based representation in the allocation of Senate seats to populous areas cannot be justified as rational on the ground that geographical, historical, and other factors were taken into account. P. 738.

5. The "federal analogy" relied upon with regard to the Senate apportionment plan is without factual or legal merit. P. 738.

6. It is not appropriate for this Court to express a view on the question of remedies, since the District Court, acting under equitable principles, must now determine whether the imminence of 1964 elections requires utilization of the newly adopted apportionment plan for purposes of those elections or whether appellants' right to cast adequately weighted votes for state legislators in those elections can practicably be effectuated. P. 739.

219 F.Supp. 922 reversed and remanded.

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WARREN, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE WARREN delivered the opinion of the Court.

Involved in this case is an appeal from a decision of the Federal District Court for the District of Colorado upholding the validity, under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution, of the apportionment of seats in the Colorado Legislature pursuant to the provisions of a constitutional amendment approved by the Colorado electorate in 1962.


Appellants, voters, taxpayers and residents of counties in the Denver metropolitan area, filed two separate actions, consolidated for trial and disposition, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, in March and July, 1962, challenging the constitutionality of the [84 S.Ct. 1463] apportionment of seats in both houses of the Colorado General Assembly. Defendants below, sued in their representative capacities, included various officials charged with duties in connection with state elections. Plaintiffs below asserted that Art. V, §§ 45, 46, and 47, of the Colorado Constitution, and the statutes1 implementing those constitutional provisions, result in gross inequalities and disparities with respect to their voting rights. They alleged that

one of the inalienable rights of citizenship . . . is equality of franchise and vote, and that the concept of equal protection of the laws requires that every citizen be equally represented in the legislature of his State.

Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, and also requested the Court to order a constitutionally

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valid apportionment plan into effect for purposes of the 1962 election of Colorado legislators. Proponents of the current apportionment scheme, which was then to be voted upon in a November, 1962, referendum as proposed Amendment No. 7 to the Colorado Constitution, were permitted to intervene. A three-judge court was promptly convened.

On August 10, 1962, the District Court announced its initial decision.2 Lisco v. McNichols, 208 F.Supp. 471. After holding that it had jurisdiction, that the issues presented were justiciable, and that grounds for abstention were lacking,3 the court below stated that the population

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disparities among various legislative districts under the existing apportionment "are of sufficient magnitude to make out a prima facie case of invidious discrimination . . . ." However, because of the imminence of the primary and general elections, and [84 S.Ct. 1464] since two constitutional amendments, proposed through the initiative procedure and prescribing rather different schemes for legislative apportionment, would be voted upon in the impending election, the District Court continued the cases without further action until after the November, 1962, election. Colorado legislators were thus elected in 1962 pursuant to the provisions of the existing apportionment scheme.

At the November, 1962, general election, the Colorado electorate adopted proposed Amendment No. 7 by a vote of 305,700 to 172,725, and defeated proposed Amendment No. 8 by a vote of 311,749 to 149,822. Amendment No. 8, rejected by a majority of the voters, prescribed an apportionment plan pursuant to which seats in both houses of the Colorado Legislature would purportedly be apportioned on a population basis.4 Amendment

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No. 7, on the other hand, provided for the apportionment of the House of Representatives on the basis of population, but essentially maintained the existing apportionment in the Senate, which was based on a combination of population and various other factors.

After the 1962 election, the parties amended their pleadings so that the cases involved solely a challenge to the apportionment scheme established in the newly adopted Amendment No. 7. Plaintiffs below requested a declaration that Amendment No. 7 was unconstitutional

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under the Fourteenth Amendment, since resulting in substantial disparities from population-based representation in the Senate, and asked for a decree reapportioning both houses of the Colorado Legislature on a population basis. After an extended trial at which a variety of statistical and testimonial evidence regarding legislative apportionment in Colorado, past and present, was introduced, the District Court, on July 16, 1963, announced its decision on the merits. Lisco v. Love, 219 F.Supp. 922. Splitting 2-to-1, the court below concluded that the apportionment scheme prescribed by Amendment No. 7 comported with the requirements of the Equal Protection [84 S.Ct. 1465] Clause, and thus dismissed the consolidated actions. In sustaining the validity of the senatorial apportionment provided for in Amendment No. 7, despite deviations from population-based representation, the District Court stated that the Fourteenth Amendment does not require "equality of population within representation districts for each house of a bicameral state legislature." Finding that the disparities from a population basis in the apportionment of Senate seats were based upon rational considerations, the court below stated that the senatorial apportionment under Amendment No. 7

recognizes population as a prime, but not controlling, factor, and gives effect to such important considerations as geography, compactness and contiguity of territory, accessibility, observance of natural boundaries, [and] conformity to historical divisions such as county lines and prior representation districts . . . .5

Stressing also that the apportionment plan had been recently adopted by popular vote in a statewide referendum, the Court stated:

[Plaintiffs] argument that the apportionment of the Senate by Amendment No. 7 is arbitrary, invidiously

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discriminatory, and without any rationality [has been answered by the] voters of Colorado . . . . By adopting Amendment No. 7 and by rejecting Amendment No. 8, which proposed to apportion the legislature on a per capita basis, the electorate has made its choice between the conflicting principles.6

Concluding, the District Court stated:

We believe that no constitutional question arises as to the actual, substantive nature of...

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