Chavis v. Whitcomb, IP 69-C-23.

Decision Date28 July 1969
Docket NumberNo. IP 69-C-23.,IP 69-C-23.
Citation305 F. Supp. 1364
PartiesPatrick CHAVIS, Andrew Ramsey, Mason Bryant, Rowland Allen, William Walker, Jr., and Marilyn Hotz, Plaintiffs, v. Edgar D. WHITCOMB, Governor of the State of Indiana, Defendant, and John C. Ruckelshaus, Otis R. Bryant, Jr., and Robert C. Morris, Intervening Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana


James W. Beatty, Bamberger & Feibleman, James Manahan, Indianapolis, Ind., for plaintiffs.

Richard C. Johnson, Deputy Atty. Gen., Indianapolis, Ind., for defendant.

William K. Byrum, Fulmer, Burris & Byrum, Indianapolis, Ind., for intervening defendants.

Before KERNER, Circuit Judge, STECKLER, Chief District Judge, and NOLAND, District Judge.



This suit was tried before a three-judge court of the Southern District of Indiana, constituted under 28 U.S.C. § 2281 in that the complaint prays that certain statutes of the State of Indiana, having state-wide effect,1 be declared violative of the Constitution of the United States. Jurisdiction is predicated upon 28 U.S.C. § 1343. The complaint seeks declaratory relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and injunctive relief would necessarily accompany a judgment adverse to defendants.

The action was commenced against the Indiana General Assembly and its individual members. By order of March 18, 1969, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion to join Edgar D. Whitcomb, as Governor of the State of Indiana. By further order of May 12, 1969, the Court granted defendants' motion to dismiss as to the Indiana General Assembly and its individual members.

The complaint purports to state a class action; each plaintiff sues in his own behalf and in behalf of the class or classes he is alleged to represent. By order of June 18, 1969, the Court determined that this was not properly a class action but that the plaintiffs could maintain the action individually.2 Also by order of June 18, 1969, the Court granted the petition of certain intervening defendants for leave to intervene nunc pro tunc June 12, 1969, pursuant to Rule 24(b) (2), Fed.R.Civ.P.

The parties agree that the bicameral Indiana General Assembly consists of a House of Representatives of one hundred members, and a Senate of fifty members,3 elected from districts, and that under the Indiana Acts of 1965 (2d Spec.Sess.), ch. 5, sec. 3, p. 18 and ch. 4, sec. 3, p. 15,4 Marion County Indiana, which includes the City of Indianapolis, comprises the Twenty-sixth District of the House and the Nineteenth District of the Senate. Under these statutes fifteen representatives and eight senators are apportioned to and elected at large from Marion County. The plaintiffs assert that these statutes operate to violate their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution of the United States.


Each of the plaintiffs is described by the complaint; allegations of fact relating specifically to the individual plaintiffs are then made. Each plaintiff sues in his own behalf and in behalf of persons similarly situated.

Plaintiff Patrick Chavis is described as a resident and voter of Indiana. Though a Negro, he lives outside the 1960 and 1967 Ghetto Areas described in the complaint, residing in an area where Negroes are unlikely ever to gather in sufficient number to be able to exercise a voting bloc influence over the election of any candidate to any public office. Therefore, he alleges that he has an active interest in protecting the voting rights of the inhabitants of the described Ghetto Area whose interests and voting propensities approximate his own.

Plaintiffs Andrew Ramsey and Mason Bryant are described as Negro-Americans who are residents and voters of Marion County, Indiana, residing in the 1967 Ghetto Area described in the complaint. They are alleged to be part of a cognizable interest group which regularly engages in bloc voting but whose bloc voting is cancelled out by the voting of contrary interest groups in Marion County-wide elections. These plaintiffs allege that their vote is invidiously diluted in Indiana General Assembly elections by multi-member districting at large of General Assembly seats in Marion County.

Plaintiff Marilyn Hotz is described as a White-American, a resident of Marion County outside the City of Indianapolis, and a Republican by party preference. She alleges that persons living in Marion County outside the city include less than one-third of the population of Marion County but almost one-half of the regular Republican voters of the county. She further alleges that such residents are deprived of a proportionate voice as to who their Republican state legislators shall be, in years of Republican victory in Marion County.

Plaintiff Rowland Allen is described as an American citizen and a resident and voter of Marion County who is an independent voter. He alleges that he seeks to vote for the individual candidate rather than the political party, but that he is frustrated in this effort because of the large number of candidates presented by each party.

Plaintiff William Walker is described as a Negro resident and voter of Lake County, Indiana. He alleges that Lake County contains about the same number of Negroes as does Marion County but that Lake County Negroes have the opportunity to influence the election of only five-eighths as many senators and eleven-fifteenths as many representatives as do Marion County Negroes in General Assembly elections. He alleges that his vote is mathematically diluted because of the multi-member districting of Marion County.

In a separate paragraph of the complaint, the plaintiffs Chavis, Ramsey, and Bryant allege that the present legislative apportionment and districting statutes of Indiana are unconscionably detrimental to the force and effect of the vote of Negroes and poor persons living in Marion County. They further allege the existence of a geographical 1967 Ghetto Area having demographic characteristics which cause it to contain a cognizable minority interest group, and the existence of a Ghetto Voting Area whose boundaries closely coincide with those of the Ghetto Area. Because of its cognizable minority characteristics, the Ghetto Area is alleged to have an unusual interest in specific areas of substantive law.

The Ghetto Area is alleged to exist involuntarily because of the segregation of racial minority groups and persons of low income.

These plaintiffs claim that under single-member districting the two described Ghetto Areas would control the nomination and election of three representatives and of one senator, but that these areas have almost no political force or control over legislators under the present districting scheme because the effect of their vote is cancelled out by other contrary interest groups in Marion County.

It is further alleged that the Democratic Party organization, particularly the County Chairman, has substantial control over the nomination of prospective state legislators in Marion County primary elections, through sponsorship of a slate of candidates. This slate is seldom defeated. Plaintiffs allege that this control exists because multi-member districting causes the number of candidates to be so large that they cannot become individually known to even the most conscientious and discerning voter.

Plaintiff William Walker, Jr. alleges that multi-member districting gives certain inhabitants and voters in a larger multi-member district a mathematically unconscionable advantage over him. He alleges that Lake County is second only to Marion County in number of inhabitants, that it is almost equal to Marion County in number of Negro inhabitants, and that if single-member districting prevailed in both counties, Lake County would elect as many "Negro rights-conscious" legislators to the General Assembly as would Marion County. Both counties are alleged to have a sufficient number of Negro voters and inhabitants for a bloc vote by said inhabitants to change the result of any election recently held.

He alleges that Lake County is a multi-member at large district for purposes of electing legislators, and that in the number of its inhabitants and of legislators Lake County is about three-fourths the size of Marion County. The four to three ratio of inhabitants and voters will continue to result in a four to three apportionment ratio of legislators between the two counties, but this four to three ratio on a multi-member district basis in Marion County will result in an invidious dilution of the Lake County Negro and voter influence with respect to the General Assembly.

In support of his conclusion plaintiff Walker alleges that voter influence does not decrease in a direct inverse ratio with the population or voter population of a district because the rules of mathematics inject a square root factor into the denominator of the said equation and fraction. Because of this, the vote of each Lake County voter effects the election of only three-fourths as many legislators as the vote of each Marion County voter, but the probability of a typical Marion County voter's having an opportunity to effect the result of an individual legislator's conduct will not be an inverse three-fourths to that of the Lake County voter; rather it will be about 86.80% that of a Lake County voter.

Plaintiff Walker alleges that because of the square root factor it is mathematically impossible to achieve a truly equitable apportionment among multi-member legislative districts of different sizes. It is further alleged that there is competition between the Negro population of Lake County and the Negro population of Marion County to capitalize upon the general concern among the general public and its legislators to overcome injustices perpetrated upon racial minorities, and that Marion County Negroes enjoy an unconscionable advantage, diluting the voting power of Lake County Negroes.


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21 cases
  • League of United Latin American Citizens, Council No. 4434 v. Clements
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • August 23, 1993 White. See S. Rep. 417 at 28 n. 113, reprinted in 1982 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News at 206 n. 113.23 See also Chavis v. Whitcomb, 305 F.Supp. 1364, 1376-81 (S.D.Ind.1969).24 The Court stated:We have discovered nothing in the record or in the court's findings indicating that poor Negroes w......
  • Whitcomb v. Chavis
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • June 7, 1971
    ...and a maximum variance in house districts of 24.78%, with a ratio of 1.279 to 1. Held: The judgment is reversed and the case remanded. 305 F.Supp. 1364, reversed and Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I—VI, finding that: 1. Although, as the Court was ......
  • Jackman v. Bodine
    • United States
    • New Jersey Supreme Court
    • March 2, 1970
    ...time enough to consider whether the system still passes constitutional muster' (emphasis added). See particularly Chavis v. Whitcomb, 305 F.Supp. 1364 (S.D.Ind., July 28, 1969), and Mann v. Davis, 245 F.Supp. 241, at 245--246 (E.D.Va.1965), aff'd without opinion, Sub. nom. Burnette v. Davis......
  • Calderon v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • March 2, 1971
    ...439, 85 S.Ct. 498, 501, 13 L.Ed.2d 401; see Burns v. Richardson, Supra, 384 U.S. 73, 88, 86 S.Ct. 1286, 16 L.Ed.2d 376; Chavis v. Whitcomb (S.D.Ind.1969) 305 F.Supp. 1364, prob.juris. noted sub nom. Whitcomb v. Chavis (1970) 397 U.S. 984, 90 S.Ct. 1112, 25 L.Ed.2d 392.) Thus far this issue ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The multimember district: a study of the multimember district and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 66 No. 1, September 2002
    • September 22, 2002
    ...system, rival interest groups cancelled out their votes). (54) Id. at 127. (55) Id. (56) Id. at 127-28. (57) See Chavis v. Whitcomb, 305 F. Supp. 1364, 1399 (S.D. Ind. 1969) (finding that adequate evidence existed to conclude that the multimember plan operated to minimize the voting strengt......

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