385 U.S. 440 (1967), 136, Swann v. Adams

Docket Nº:No. 136
Citation:385 U.S. 440, 87 S.Ct. 569, 17 L.Ed.2d 501
Party Name:Swann v. Adams
Case Date:January 09, 1967
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 440

385 U.S. 440 (1967)

87 S.Ct. 569, 17 L.Ed.2d 501




No. 136

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 9, 1967

Argued December 6, 1966




Following this Court's decisions in Swann v. Adams invalidating the apportionment of the Florida Legislature (378 U.S. 553) and the subsequent reapportionment which the District Court had found unconstitutional but approved on an interim basis (383 U.S. 210), the Florida Legislature adopted still another legislative reapportionment plan, which appellants, residents and voters of Dade County, Florida, attacked as failing to meet the standards of voter equality set forth in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, and companion cases. The new plan provides for 48 senators and 117 representatives. The senate districts range from 15.09% overrepresentation to 10.56% underrepresentation, the ratio between the largest and smallest district being 1.30 to 1. The house districts range from 18.28% overrepresentation to 15.27% underrepresentation, the ratio between the largest and the smallest district being 1.41 to 1. The State failed to present any acceptable reasons for the population variance between districts, indicating only that it was attempting to follow congressional district lines and that its plan came as close as "practical" to complete population equality, though appellants' proposed plan showed the feasibility of measurably reducing population differences between districts. Though recognizing that "apportionment must be substantially on a population basis," the District Court held the variations not discriminatory and upheld the plan.


1. Appellants have standing to attack the reapportionment. P. 443.

2. The State's failure to articulate acceptable reasons for population variances between districts invalidates the reapportionment plan. Pp. 443-447.

(a) Allowable deviations from equality of population between legislative districts are confined to minor variations which "are based on legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy." Reynolds v. Sims, supra, at 579. P. 444.

Page 441

(b) Minor variations from a pure population standard must be nondiscriminatory and justified by state policy considerations such as integrity of political subdivisions, maintenance of compactness and contiguity in legislative districts, or recognition of natural or historical boundary lines. P. 444.

(c) Variation from the norm approved in one State has little relevance to the validity of a similar variation in another State. P. 445.

258 F.Supp. 819, reversed.

WHITE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents still another development in the efforts of the State of Florida to apportion its legislature in accordance with the requirements of the Federal Constitution. There have been previous chapters in this story. The litigation began in 1962. On June 22, 1964, in Swann v. Adams, 378 U.S. 553, we reversed the judgment of the three-judge District Court upholding the then-current legislative apportionment in Florida and remanded the case for further proceedings, consistent with the Court's opinion in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, and its companion cases. The District Court then deferred further action until the conclusion of the legislative session which convened on April 6, 1965. The

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legislature proceeded to reapportion the State on June 29, 1965. The District Court forthwith held the new plan failed to meet the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, but approved the plan on an interim basis, limiting it to the period ending 60 days after the adjournment of the 1967 session of the Florida Legislature. This Court, finding no warrant for perpetuating what all conceded was an unconstitutional apportionment for another three years, reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the District Court so that a valid reapportionment plan would be made effective for the 1966 elections. Swann v. Adams, 383 U.S. 210. The Florida Legislature again acted on the matter in March, 1966, by adopting still another reapportionment plan which the appellants promptly attacked in the District Court.

The new plan provides for 48 senators and 117 representatives, and includes what, in effect, are multimember districts for each house. The senate districts range from 87,595 to 114,053 in population per senator, or from 15.09% overrepresented to 10.56% underrepresented. The ratio between the largest and the smallest district is thus 1.30 to 1. The deviation from the average population per senator is greater than 15% in one senatorial district, is greater than 14% in five more districts, and is more than 10% in still six other districts. Approximately 25% of the State's population living in one quarter of the total number of senatorial districts is underrepresented or overrepresented by at least 10%. The minimum percentage of persons that could elect a majority of 25 senators is 48.38%.

In the house, the population per representative ranges from 34,584 to 48,785, or from 18.28% overrepresented to 15.27% underrepresented. The ratio between the largest and the smallest representative district is 1.41 to 1. Two districts vary from the norm by more than 18%,

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and another by more than 15%, these three districts having seven of the 117 representatives. Ten other districts with 22 representatives vary from the norm by more than 10%. There is thus a deviation of more than 10% in districts which elect 29 of the 117 representatives; 24.35% of the State's population lives in these districts. The minimum percentage of persons that could elect a majority of 59 representatives is 47.79%.

The District Court recognized that "apportionment must be substantially on a population basis" but that "[m]athematical exactness or precision is not required." It went on to hold

[s]uch departures as there are from the ideal are not sufficient in number or great enough in percentages to require an upsetting [87 S.Ct. 572] of the legislative plan. . . . [W]hat deviation there is does not discriminate to any great extent against any section of the state, or against either rural or urban interests.

258 F.Supp....

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