Kirkpatrick v. Preisler Heinkel v. Preisler, Nos. 30

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
PartiesJames C. KIRKPATRICK, Secretary of State of Missouri, et al., Appellants, v. Paul W. PREISLER et al. F. V. HEINKEL et al., Appellants, v. Paul W. PREISLER et al
Docket NumberNos. 30,31
Decision Date07 April 1969

394 U.S. 526
89 S.Ct. 1225
22 L.Ed.2d 519
James C. KIRKPATRICK, Secretary of State of Missouri, et al., Appellants,

v.

Paul W. PREISLER et al. F. V. HEINKEL et al., Appellants, v. Paul W. PREISLER et al.

Nos. 30, 31.
Argued Jan. 13, 1969.
Decided April 7, 1969.
Rehearing Denied May 19, 1969.

See 395 U.S. 917, 89 S.Ct. 1737.

Page 527

Thomas J. Downey, Jefferson City, Mo., and David Collins, Macon, Mo., or appellants.

Irving Achtenberg, Kansas City, Mo., for appellees.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct., 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 (1964), we held that '(w)hile it may not be possible (for the States) to draw congressional districts with mathematical precision,' id., at 18, 84 S.Ct. at 535, Art. I, § 2, of the Constitution requires that 'as nearly as is practicable one man's vote in a con-

Page 528

gressional election is to be worth as much as another's.' Id., at 7—8, 84 S.Ct. at 530. We are required in these cases to elucidate the 'as nearly as practicable' standard.

The Missouri congressional redistricting statute challenged in these cases resulted from that State's second attempt at congressional redistricting since Wesberry was decided. In 1965, a three-judge District Court for the Western District of Missouri declared that the Missouri congressional districting Act then in effect was unconstitutional under Wesberry but withheld any judicial relief 'until the Legislature of the State of Missouri has once more had an opportunity to deal with the problem * * *.' Preisler v. Secretary of State of Missouri, 238 F.Supp. 187, 191. Thereafter the General Assembly of Missouri enacted a redistricting statute, but this statute too was declared unconstitutional. The District Court, however, retained jurisdiction to review any further plan that might be enacted. Preisler v. Secretary of State of Missouri, 257 F.Supp. 953 (1966), aff'd, sub nom. Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 385 U.S. 450, 87 S.Ct. 613, 17 L.Ed.2d 511 (1967). In 1967, the General Assembly enacted the statute under attack here, Mo.Rev.Stat., c. 128 (Cum.Supp.1967), and the Attorney General of Missouri moved in the District Court for a declaration sustaining the Act and an order dismissing the case.

Based on the best population data available to the legislature in 1967, the 1960 United States census figures, absolute population equality among Missouri's 10 congressional districts would mean a population of 431,981 in each district. The districts created by the 1967 Act, however, varied from this ideal within a range of 12,260 below it to 13,542 above it. The difference between the least and most populous districts was thus 25,802. In percentage terms, the most populous district was 3.13%

Page 529

above the mathematical ideal, and the least populous was 2.84% below.1

The District Court found that the General Assembly had not in fact relied on the census figures but instead had based its plan on less accurate data. In addition, the District Court found that the General Assembly had rejected a redistricting plan submitted to it which provided for districts with smaller population variances among them. Finally, the District Court found that the simple device of switching some counties from one district to another would have produced a plan with markedly reduced variances among districts. Based on these findings, the District Court, one judge dissenting, held that the 1967 Act did not meet the constitutional standard of equal representation for equal numbers of people 'as nearly as practicable,' and that the State had failed to make any acceptable justification for the variances. 279 F.Supp. 952 (1967). We noted

Page 530

probable jurisdiction but st yed the District Court's judgment pending appeal and expressly authorized the State 'to conduct the 1968 congressional elections under and pursuant to (the) 1967 * * * Act * * *.' 390 U.S. 939, 88 S.Ct. 1053, 19 L.Ed.2d 1129 (1968). We affirm.

Missouri's primary argument is that the population variances among the districts created by the 1967 Act are so small that they should be considered de minimis and for that reason to satisfy the 'as nearly as practicable' limitation and not to require independent justification. Alternatively, Missouri argues that justification for the variances was established in the evidence: it is contended that the General Assembly provided for variances out of legitimate regard for such factors as the representation of distinct interest groups, the integrity of county lines, the compactness of districts, the population trends within the State, the high proportion of military personnel, college students, and other nonvoters in some districts, and the political realities of 'legislative interplay.'

I.

We reject Missouri's argument that there is a fixed numerical or percentage population variance small enough to be considered de minimis and to satisfy without question the 'as nearly as practicable' standard. The whole thrust of the 'as nearly as practicable' approach is inconsistent with adoption of fixed numerical standards which excuse population variances without regard to the circumstances of each particular case. The extent to which equality may practicably be achieved may differ from State to State and from district to district. Since 'equal representation for equal numbers of people (is) the fundamental goal for the House of Representatives,' Wesberry v. Sanders, supra, at 18, 84 S.Ct. at 535, the 'as nearly as practicable' standard requires that the State make a good-faith effort to achieve precise mathematical

Page 531

equality. See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 577, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 1389, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964). Unless population variances among congressional districts are shown to have resulted despite such effort, the State must justify each variance, no matter how small.

There are other reasons for rejecting the de minimis approach. We can see no nonarbitrary way to pick a cutoff point at which population variances suddenly become de minimis. Moreover, to consider a certain range of variances de minimis would encourage legislators to strive for the range rather than for equality as nearly as practicable. The District Court found, for example, that at least one leading Missouri legislator deemed it proper to attempt to achieve a 2% level of variance rather than to seek population equality.

Equal representation for equal numbers of people is a principle designed to prevent debasement of voting power and diminution of access to elected representatives. Toleration of even small deviations detracts from these purposes. Therefore, the command of Art. I § 2, that States create congressional districts which provide equal representation for equal numbers of people permits only the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown.

Clearly, the population variances among the Missouri congressional districts were not unavoidable. Indeed, it is not seriously contended that the missouri Legislature came as close to equality as it might have come. The District Court found that, to the contrary, in the two reapportionment efforts of the Missouri Legislature since Wesberry 'the leadership of both political parties in the Senate and the House were given nothing better to work with than a makeshift bill produced by what has been candidly recognized to be no more than * * * an expedient political compromise.' 279 F.Supp., at 966. Legisla-

Page 532

tive proponents of the 1967 Act frankly conceded at the District Court hearing that resort to the simple device of transferring entire political subdivisions of known population between contiguous districts would have produced istricts much closer to numerical equality. The District Court found, moreover, that the Missouri Legislature relied on inaccurate data in constructing the districts, and that it rejected without consideration a plan which would have markedly reduced population variances among the districts. Finally, it is simply inconceivable that population disparities of the magnitude found in the Missouri plan were unavoidable.2 The New York apportionment plan of regions divided into districts of almost absolute population equality described in Wells v. Rockefeller, post, at 394 U.S. 542, 89 S.Ct. 1234, 1236 1237, 22 L.Ed.2d 535, provides striking evidence that a state legislature which tries can achieve almost complete numerical equality among all the State's districts. In sum, 'it seems quite obvious that the State could have come much closer to providing districts of equal population than it did.' Swann v. Adams, 385 U.S. 440, 445, 87 S.Ct. 569, 573, 17 L.Ed.2d 501 (1967).

We therefore turn to the question whether the record establishes any legally acceptable justification for the population variances. It was the burden of the State 'to present * * * acceptable reasons for the variations among the populations of the various * * * districts. * * * Swann v. Adams, supra, at 443-444, 87 S.Ct. at 572.

Page 533

II.

We agree with the District Court that Missouri has not satisfactorily justified the population variances among the districts.

Missouri contends that variances were necessary to avoid fragmenting areas with distinct economic and social interests and thereby diluting the effective representation of those interests in Congress. But to accept population variances, large or small, in order to create districts with specific interest orientations is antithetical to the basic premise of the constitutional command to provide equal representation for equal numbers of people. '(N)either history alone, nor economic or other sorts of group interests, are permissible factors in attempting to justify disparities from population-based representation. Citizens, not history or economic interests, cast votes.' Reynolds v. Sims, supra, at 579—580, 84...

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300 practice notes
  • Mo. State Conference of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist., Case No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • 22 August 2016
    ...omitted), aff'd , 165 F.3d 368 (5th Cir.1999) ; Vill. of Port Chester , 704 F.Supp.2d at 439 ; see also Kir k patrick v. Preisler , 394 U.S. 526, 535, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969)201 F.Supp.3d 1033.The District presents three sets of data that it argues should be used to determine t......
  • Calvin v. Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, CASE NO. 4:15CV131-MW/CAS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • 19 March 2016
    ...Second, there is the interest in being represented on an equal footing with one's neighbors. See, e.g. , Kirkpatrick v. Preisler , 394 U.S. 526, 531, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969) (“Equal representation for equal numbers of people is a principle designed to prevent debasement of voti......
  • Egan v. Hammond, No. 1711
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 21 July 1972
    ...450 civilians. Despite an intensive voter registration effort only 165 were registered to vote as of June 1972. 3 Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 528, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519, 523 (1969). Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 4 The court was petitioned t......
  • Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14–940.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 4 April 2016
    ...rule. States must draw congressional districts with populations as close to perfect equality as possible. See Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 530–531, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969). But, when drawing state and local legislative districts, jurisdictions are permitted to deviate......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
299 cases
  • Mo. State Conference of the Nat'l Ass'n for the Advancement of Colored People v. Ferguson-Florissant Sch. Dist., Case No. 4:14 CV 2077 RWS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • 22 August 2016
    ...omitted), aff'd , 165 F.3d 368 (5th Cir.1999) ; Vill. of Port Chester , 704 F.Supp.2d at 439 ; see also Kir k patrick v. Preisler , 394 U.S. 526, 535, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969)201 F.Supp.3d 1033.The District presents three sets of data that it argues should be used to determine t......
  • Calvin v. Jefferson Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, CASE NO. 4:15CV131-MW/CAS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Florida
    • 19 March 2016
    ...Second, there is the interest in being represented on an equal footing with one's neighbors. See, e.g. , Kirkpatrick v. Preisler , 394 U.S. 526, 531, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969) (“Equal representation for equal numbers of people is a principle designed to prevent debasement of voti......
  • Egan v. Hammond, No. 1711
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alaska (US)
    • 21 July 1972
    ...450 civilians. Despite an intensive voter registration effort only 165 were registered to vote as of June 1972. 3 Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 528, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519, 523 (1969). Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 4 The court was petitioned t......
  • Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14–940.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • 4 April 2016
    ...rule. States must draw congressional districts with populations as close to perfect equality as possible. See Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 530–531, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969). But, when drawing state and local legislative districts, jurisdictions are permitted to deviate......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Supreme Court of the United States, 1968-1969
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 23-1, March 1970
    • 1 March 1970
    ...on the census reports but had used less accurate data and that it hadrejected a plan with smaller variances. In Kirkpatrick v. Preisler (394 U.S. 526;89 S. Ct. 1225) the Court held the statute void in an opinion by Justice (vote: 6-3, Harlan, Stewart and White dissenting). The opinion noted......

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