Mahan v. Howell City of Virginia Beach v. Howell Weinberg v. Prichard 8212 364, 71 8212 373 71 8212 444, Nos. 71

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation410 U.S. 315,93 S.Ct. 979,35 L.Ed.2d 320
Docket NumberNos. 71
Decision Date21 February 1973
PartiesJohn S. MAHAN, Secretary, State Board of Elections, et al., Appellants, v. Henry E. HOWELL, Jr., et al. CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, Appellant, v. Henry E. HOWELL, Jr., et al. Robert L. WEINBERG, Appellant, v. Edgar A. PRICHARD et al. —364, 71—373, and 71—444

410 U.S. 315
93 S.Ct. 979
35 L.Ed.2d 320
John S. MAHAN, Secretary, State Board of Elections, et al., Appellants,

v.

Henry E. HOWELL, Jr., et al. CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, Appellant, v. Henry E. HOWELL, Jr., et al. Robert L. WEINBERG, Appellant, v. Edgar A. PRICHARD et al.

Nos. 71—364, 71—373, and 71—444.
Argued Dec. 12, 1972.
Decided Feb. 21, 1973.
As Modified on Rehearing April 2, 1973.

See 93 S.Ct. 1475.

Syllabus

The Virginia General Assembly in 1971 reapportioned the State for the election of state delegates and senators. The apportionment statutes, on challenge by appellees, were invalidated by a three-judge District Court, which ruled the reapportionments impermissible violations of the 'one person, one vote' principle. The court substituted its own electoral districts, reducing to about 10% the percentage variation from the ideal district from the approximately 16% variation permitted by the legislature's plan but, contrary to that plan, in many instances not following political subdivision lines. Held:

1. Reapportionment of electroal districts for Virginia's House of Delegates complied with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since the legislature's maximum population percentage variation, which was not excessive, resulted from the State's rational objective of preserving the integrity of political subdivision lines. Pp. 320—330.

(a) In the implementation of the basic constitutional principle that both houses of a bicameral state legislature be apportioned substantially on a population basis (Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506), more flexibility is permissible with respect to state legislative reapportionment than with respect to congressional redistricting. Pp. 325—330.

(b) The State's objective of preserving the integrity of political subdivision lines is rational since it furthers the legislative purpose of facilitating enactment of statutes of purely local concern and preserves for the voters in the political subdivisions a voice in the state legislature on local matters. Pp. 325—328.

(c) Given the wider constitutional latitude in state legislative reapportionment, the population disparities reflected in the legis-

Page 316

lature's maximum percentage deviation are within tolerable constitutional limits. Pp. 328—330.

2. The establishment by the legislature of three numerically ideal senatorial electoral districts by assigning to one of them about 36,700 persons who were 'home-ported' at the U.S. Naval Station, Norfolk, regardless of where they actually resided, because that is where they were counted on official census tracts, was constitutionally impermissible discrimination against military personnel, cf. Davis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678, 84 S.Ct. 1441, 12 L.Ed.2d 609, and the District Court, which was under severe time pressures, did not abuse its discretion in prescribing an interim plan of combining the three districts into one multimember district. Pp. 330—333.

330 F.Supp. 1138, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

Andrew P. Miller, Richmond, Va., for appellants John S. Mahan and others.

Harry Frazier, III, Richmond, Va., for appellant City of Virginia Beach.

Henry E. Howell, Jr., Norfolk, Va., pro. se and others.

Clive L. DuVal, 2d, pro. se.

Page 317

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Acting pursuant to the mandate of its newly revised state constitution,1 the Virginia General Assembly enacted statutes apportioning the State for the election of members of its House of Delegates2 and Senate.3 Two suits were brought challenging the constitutionality of the House redistricting statute on the grounds that there were impermissible population variances in the districts, that the multimember districts diluted representation,4 and that the use of multimember jdistricts

Page 318

constituted racial gerrymandering.5 The Senate redistricting statute was attacked in a separate suit, which alleged that the city of Norfolk was unconstitutionally aplit into three districts, allocating Navy personnel 'home-ported' in Norfolk to one district and isolating Negro voters in one district. Three three-judge district courts were convened to hear the suits pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284. The suits were consolidated and heard by the four judges who variously made up the three three-judge panels.

The consolidated District Court entered an interlocutory order that, inter alia, declared the legislative reapportionment statutes unconstitutional and enjoined the holding of elections in electoral districts other than those established by the court's opinion. Howell v. Mahan, 330 F.Supp. 1138, 1150 (ED Va.1971). Appellants, the Secretary of the State Board of Elections and its members and the city of Virginia Beach, have appealed directly to this Court from those portions of the court's order, invoking our jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1253.

I

The statute apportioning the House provided for a combination of 52 singlemember, multimember, and floater delegate districts from which 100 delegates would

Page 319

be elected. As found by the lower court, the ideal district in Virginia consisted of 46,485 persons per delegate, and the maximum percentage variation from that ideal under the Act was 16.4%—the 12th district being overrepresented by 6.8% and the 16th district being underrepresented by 9.6%. 6 The population ratio between these two districts was 1.18 to 1. The average percentage variance under the plan was 3.89%, and the minimum population percentage necessary to elect a majority of the House was 49.29%. Of the 52 districts, 35 were within 4% of perfection and nine exceeded a 6% variance from the ideal. With one exception, the delegate districts followed political jurisdictional lines of the counties and cities. That exception, Fairfax County, was allotted 10 delegates but was divided into two five-member districts.

Relying on Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969); Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542, 89 S.Ct. 1234, 22 L.Ed.2d 535 (1969), and Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964), the District Court concluded that the 16.4% variation was sufficient to condemn the House statute under the 'one person, one vote' doctrine. While it noted that the variances were traceable to the desire of the General Assembly to maintain the integrity of traditional county and city boundaries, and that it was impossible to draft district lines to overcome unconstitutional disparties and still main-

Page 320

tain such integrity, it held that the State proved no governmental necessity for strictly adhering to political subdivision lines. Accordingly, it undertook its own redistricting and devised a plan having a percentage variation of slightly over 10% from the ideal district, a percentage it believed came 'within passable constitutional limits as 'a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality.' Kirkpatrick v. Preisler . . ..' Howell v. Mahan, 330 F.Supp., at 1147—1148.

Appellants contend that the District Court's reliance on Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, supra, and Wells v. Rockefeller, supra, in striking down the General Assembly's reapportionment plan was arroneous, and that proper application of the standards enunciated in Reynolds v. Sims, supra, would have resulted in a finding that the statute was constitutional.

In Kirkpatrick v. Preisler and Wells v. Rockefeller, this Court invalidated state reapportionment statutes for federal congressional districts having maximum percentage deviations of 5.97% and 13.1% respectively. The express purpose of these cases was to elucidate the standard first announced in the holding of Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 (1964), that 'the command of Art. I, § 2, that Representatives be chosen 'by the People of the several States' means that as nearly as is practicable one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's.' Id., at 7—8, 84 S.Ct., at 530 (footnotes omitted). And it was concluded that that command 'permits only the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown.' Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, supra, 394 U.S. at 531, 89 S.Ct., at 1229. The principal question thus presented for review is whether or not the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment likewise permits only 'the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a good-

Page 321

-faith effort to achieve absolute equality' in the context of state legislative reapportionment.7

This Court first recognized that the Equal Protection Clause requires both houses of a bicameral state legislature to be apportioned substantially on a population basis in Reynolds v. Sims, supra. In so doing, it suggested that in the implementation of the basic constitutional principle—equality of population among the districts—more flexibility was constitutionally permissible with respect to state legislative reapportionment than in congressional redistricting. Id., 377 U.S., at 578, 84 S.Ct., at 1390. Consideration was given to the fact that, almost invariably, there is a significantly larger number of seats in state legislative bodies to be distributed within a State than congressional seats, and that therefore it may be feasible for a State to use political subdivision lines to a greater extent in establishing state legislative districts than congressional districts while still affording adequate statewide representation. Ibid. Another possible justification for deviation from population-based representation in state legislatures was stated to be:

'(T)hat of insuring some voice to political subdivisions, as political subdivisions. Several factors make more than insubstantial claims that a State can rationally consider according political subdivisions some independent representation in at...

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314 practice notes
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...the millage rate in the counties. 3 We note that shortly after Goosby v. Osser, the Supreme Court decided Mahan v. Howell, --- U.S. ---, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973), which involved apportionment of a State legislature. The majority opinion applied the 'rational basis' 3 a The opinio......
  • United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Wilson, No. 1251
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 6, 1975
    ...straight paths, swerving for geographic or community or political subdivision boundaries where necessary or rational, see Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 325, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973); Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 742, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 37 L.Ed.2d 298 (1973), embracing substant......
  • 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
    • March 19, 2016
    ...deviations in total census population among state legislative districts than among congressional districts. See, e.g. , Mahan v. Howell , 410 U.S. 315, 322–23, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973). The Court extended Reynolds to units of local government (county commissions, etc.) in Avery v......
  • Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14–940.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 4, 2016
    ...with the one-person, one-vote rule. Ibid.2 Maximum deviations above 10% are presumptively impermissible. Ibid. See also Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 329, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973) (approving a state-legislative map with maximum population deviation of 16% to accommodate the Stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
312 cases
  • Robinson v. Cahill
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • April 3, 1973
    ...the millage rate in the counties. 3 We note that shortly after Goosby v. Osser, the Supreme Court decided Mahan v. Howell, --- U.S. ---, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973), which involved apportionment of a State legislature. The majority opinion applied the 'rational basis' 3 a The opinio......
  • United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburgh, Inc. v. Wilson, No. 1251
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • January 6, 1975
    ...straight paths, swerving for geographic or community or political subdivision boundaries where necessary or rational, see Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 325, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973); Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 742, 93 S.Ct. 2321, 37 L.Ed.2d 298 (1973), embracing substant......
  • 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
    • March 19, 2016
    ...deviations in total census population among state legislative districts than among congressional districts. See, e.g. , Mahan v. Howell , 410 U.S. 315, 322–23, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973). The Court extended Reynolds to units of local government (county commissions, etc.) in Avery v......
  • Evenwel v. Abbott, No. 14–940.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • April 4, 2016
    ...with the one-person, one-vote rule. Ibid.2 Maximum deviations above 10% are presumptively impermissible. Ibid. See also Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 329, 93 S.Ct. 979, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973) (approving a state-legislative map with maximum population deviation of 16% to accommodate the Stat......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • List of Cases Referenced
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 28-1, March 1975
    • March 1, 1975
    ...v. Shaker Heights, 94 S.Ct. 2714 (1974)Lewis v. New Orleans, 415 U.S. 130 (1974)Lubin v. Panish, 415 U.S. 709 (1974)Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973)Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643 (1961) Marshall v. United States, 414 U.S. 417 (1974)Memorial Hospital v. Maricopa County, 414 U.S. 250 (1973)Mi......

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