White v. Weiser

Decision Date18 June 1973
Docket NumberNo. 71-1623,71-1623
Citation93 S.Ct. 2348,412 U.S. 783,37 L.Ed.2d 335
PartiesMark WHITE, Jr., Etc., Appellant, v. Dan WEISER et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Texas enacted Senate Bill One (S.B. 1) providing for congressional redistricting. The State was divided into 24 districts, with an average deviation from the ideal district of .745%, and a maximum deviation of 2.43% above and 1.7% below the ideal. Appellees alleged that the reapportionment violated their constitutional rights under Art. 1, § 2, and submitted Plan B, which although cutting across more county lines, generally followed the district lines of S.B. 1. Plan B had a total maximum deviation of .149%. Shortly before the three-judge court hearing, appellees submitted, alternatively, Plan C. That Scheme, with a total maximum deviation of .284%, substantially disregarded the configuration of the districts in S.B. 1, using population as the only consideration. The District Court found S.B. 1 unconstitutional and ordered the adoption of Plan C, as being more compact and continguous than the other plans. Held:

1. Although the percentage deviations in S.B. 1 are smaller than those invalidated in Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519, and Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542, 89 S.Ct. 1234, 22 L.Ed.2d 535, they were not 'unavoidable' and the districts were not as mathematically equal as reasonably possible. The argument that variances are justified if they necessarily result from the State's attempt to avoid fragmenting political subdivisions by drawing district lines along existing political subdivision lines is not legally acceptable. Kirkpatrick, supra, 394 U.S., at 533-534, 89 S.Ct., at 1230-1231, Pp. 790—791.

2. Though the drawing of district boundaries in a way that minimizes the number of contests between present incumbents does not of itself establish invidiousness, Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 89 n. 16, 86 S.Ct. 1286, 1295, 16 L.Ed.2d 376, it is not necessary to decide whether such state interest will justify the deviations in S.B. 1, since Plan B serves this purpose as well with less population variance. Pp. 791-792.

3. Population variances do invidiously devalue the individual's vote at some point or level in size, and this is especially noticeable in congressional districts with their substantial populations. Pp. 792-793 4. Plan B, to a greater extent than Plan C, while eliminating population variances, adhered to the districting preferences of the state legislature, which has 'primary jurisdiction' over legislative reapportionment. Pp. 793-797.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Charles L. Black, Jr., New Haven, Conn., for appellant.

Lawrence Fischman, Dallas, Tex., for appellees.

Mr. Justice WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case concerns the congressional reapportionment of the State of Texas.

On June 17, 1971, the Governor of the State of Texas signed into law Senate Bill One (S.B. 1), Tex.Acts, 62d Leg., 1st Called Sess., c. 12, p. 38, providing for the congressional redistricting of the State. S.B. 1 divided the State into 24 congressional districts for the ensuing decennium.1 Based upon 1970 census figures, absolute population equality among the 24 districts would mean a population of 466,530 in each district. The districts created by S.B. 1 varied from a high of 477,856 in the 13th District to a low of 458,581 in the 15th District. The 13th District exceeded the ideal district by 2.43% and the 15th District was smaller by 1.7%. The population difference between the two districts was 19,275 persons, and their total percentage deviation was 4.13%. The ratio of the 13th District to the 15th was 1.04 to 1. The average deviation of all districts from the ideal district of 466,530 was .745% or 3,421 persons.2

On October 19, 1971, appellees, residents of the 6th, 13th, 16th, and 19th congressional districts, filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas against appellant, the Secretary of State of Texas and the chief election officer of the State. Appellees alleged that the reapportionment of the Texas congressional seats as embodied in S.B. 1 violated their rights under Art. 1, § 2, and the equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.3 They requested an injunction against the use of S.B. 1, an order requiring a new apportionment or the use of a plan submitted with their complaint, or at-large elections. The plan appended to appellees' original complaint, which came to be called Plan B, generally followed the redistricting pattern of S.B. 1. However, the district lines were adjusted where necessary so as to achieve smaller population variances among districts. Plan B created districts varying from 466,930 to 466,234, for a total absolute deviation between the largest and smallest district of 696 persons. District 12 was exceeded the ideal by .086% and District Four was under the ideal by .063%, for a total percentage deviation of .149%. Although the plan followed the district lines of S.B. 1 where possible, in order to achieve maximum population equality, Plan B cut across 18 more county lines than did S.B. 1. 4

A three-judge court was convened. 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284. On January 10, 1972, several days prior to the scheduled hearing of the case, appellees filed an amended complaint suggesting an alternative plan, which came to be called Plan C. Plan C, unlike Plan B, substantially disregarded the configuration of the districts in S.B. 1. Instead, as the authors of the plan frankly admitted and the District Court found, plan C represented an attempt to attain lower deviations without regard to any consideration other than population. The districts in Plan C varied in population from 467,173 as a high to 465,855 as a low, a difference of 1,318 persons. The largest district was overpopulated by .139%, and the smallest underpopulated by .145%, the total percentage deviation being .284%. Plan C had 14 districts with greater deviations than Plan B, eight districts with deviations equal to those found in Plan B, and two districts with deviations smaller than those in Plan B.5

On January 21, 1972, the District Court heard argument and received into evidence various depositions. The next day, the court announced its decision. Relying upon this Court's decision in Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 89 S.Ct. 1225, 22 L.Ed.2d 519 (1969), the District Court declared S.B. 1 unconstitutional and enjoined appellant from 'conducting or permitting any primary or general elections based upon the districts established by S.B. 1.' The District Court ordered the adoption of Plan C as 'the plan of this Court for the congressional districts of the State of Texas.'6 Noting that its order was entered 'without prejudice to the legislative and executive branches of the State of Texas to proceed with the consideration and adoption of any other constitutionally permissible plan of congressional redistricting at a called or regular session of the Legislature,' the District Court retained jurisdiction 'for the purposes of considering any such plan which might be adopted by the Legislature of the State of Texas until congressional reapportionment is enacted based on the Twentieth Decennial Census to be conducted in 1980.'7

This Court, on application of appellant, granted a stay of the order of the District Court. 404 U.S. 1065, 92 S.Ct. 750, 30 L.Ed.2d 775 (1972). The 1972 congressional elections were therefore conducted under the plan embodied in S.B. 1. We noted probable jurisdiction of the appeal. 409 U.S. 947, 93 S.Ct. 287, 34 L.Ed.2d 217 (1972).

I

The command of Art. I. § 2, that representatives be chosen 'by the People of the several States' was elucidated in Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 84 S.Ct. 526, 11 L.Ed.2d 481 (1964), and in Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S., at 527-528, 89 S.Ct., at 1227, to permit only those population variances among congressional districts that 'are unavoidable despite a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown.' Id., at 531, 89 S.Ct., at 1229.8 See also Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542, 546, 89 S.Ct. 1234, 1237, 22 L.Ed.2d 535 (1969). Kirkpatrick and Wells invalidated state reapportionment statutes providing for federal congressional districts having total percentage deviations of 5.97% and 13.1%, respectively. In both cases, we concluded that the deviations did not demonstrate a good-faith effort to achieve absolute equality and were not sufficiently justified.

The percentage deviations now before us in S.B. 1 are smaller than those invalidated in Kirkpatrick and Wells, but we agree with the District Court that, under the standards of those cases, they were not 'unavoidable,' and the districts were not as mathematically equal as reasonably possible. Both Plans B and C demonstrate this much, and the State does not really dispute it.9 Also, as in Kirkpatrick and Wells, 'we do not find legally acceptable the argument that variances are justified if they necessarily result from a State's attempt to avoid fragmenting political subdivisions by drawing congressional district lines along existing county, municipal, or other political subdivision boundaries.' Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, supra, 394 U.S., at 533-534, 89 S.Ct. at 1230.

The State asserts that the variances present in S.B. 1 nevertheless represent good-faith efforts by the State to promote 'constituency-representative relations,'10 a policy frankly aimed at maintaining existing relationships between incumbent congressmen and their constituents and preserving the seniority the members of the State's delegation have achieved in the United States House of Representatives. We do not disparage this interest. We have, in the context of state reapportionment, said that the fact that 'district boundaries may have been drawn in a way that minimizes the number of contests between present incumbents does not in...

To continue reading

Request your trial
238 cases
  • Terrazas v. Clements
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Texas
    • 24 Marzo 1982
    ...brushes aside state apportionment policy without solid constitutional or equitable grounds for doing so. White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 796, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 2355, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973); Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. at 161, 91 S.Ct. at 1878 (1971). In choosing among plans for implementation, ......
  • Bethune-Hill v. Va. State Bd. of Elections
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia
    • 22 Octubre 2015
    ...the members of the State's delegation have achieved in the United States House of Representatives," White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 792, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973), but does not necessarily invade the province of the voters. As the LULAC Court advised: "[I]ncumbency protection can ......
  • Johnson v. Wis. Elections Comm'n
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • 30 Noviembre 2021
    ...them as an expression of "the policies and preferences of the State[.]" Legislature Br. at 16 (quoting White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 795, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973) ). The legislature's argument fails because the recent legislation did not survive the political process. The exist......
  • Singleton v. Merrill
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
    • 24 Enero 2022
    ...See, e.g., North Carolina v. Covington , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 2548, 2554, 201 L.Ed.2d 993 (2018) ; White v. Weiser , 412 U.S. 783, 794–95, 93 S.Ct. 2348, 37 L.Ed.2d 335 (1973).The Legislature enjoys broad discretion and may consider a wide range of remedial plans. As the Legislature co......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • To End Gerrymandering: The Canadian Model for Reforming the Congressional Redistricting Process in the United States
    • United States
    • Capital University Law Review No. 41-4, December 2013
    • 1 Diciembre 2013
    ...years is one of caution and restraint. 200 For necessary to achieve a consistent, nondiscriminatory legislative policy); White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 790 (1973) (invalidating Texas congressional redistricting plan on grounds that the population deviations between and among districts “were......
  • The Party's Over: Partisan Gerrymandering and the First Amendment
    • United States
    • Capital University Law Review No. 36-1, September 2007
    • 1 Septiembre 2007
    ...U.S. at 571–76. 49 Lucas , 377 U.S. at 736. 50 Id. at 738–39. 51 390 U.S. 474 (1968). 52 Id. at 480–81. 53 394 U.S. 526, 530–31 (1969). 54 412 U.S. 783, 791–92 (1973). 55 462 U.S. 725, 730–31 (1983). 56 Kirkpatrick , 394 U.S. at 531; White , 412 U.S. at 790; Karcher , 462 U.S. at 727. 57 Se......
  • A Change of Direction: Habeas Corpus from Warren to Burger
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 32-2, June 1979
    • 1 Junio 1979
    ...415 US. 709 (1974), Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441 (1974). Hill v. Stone, 421 U.S. 289 (1975). la TYhite v. WeLer, 412 U.S. 783 (1973). “ Rosario v. Rockefeller, 410 U.S. 752 (1973). Is Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). It) lvhitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124 (1971).......
  • A Change of Direction: Habeas Corpus from Warren to Burger
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly No. 32-2, June 1979
    • 1 Junio 1979
    ...415 US. 709 (1974), Communist Party of Indiana v. Whitcomb, 414 U.S. 441 (1974). Hill v. Stone, 421 U.S. 289 (1975). la TYhite v. WeLer, 412 U.S. 783 (1973). “ Rosario v. Rockefeller, 410 U.S. 752 (1973). Is Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). It) lvhitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124 (1971).......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT