CRS Annotated Constitution

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Apportionment and Districting.—Prior to 1962, attacks in federal courts on the drawing of boundaries for congressional and legislative election districts or the apportionment of seats to previously existing units ran afoul of the “political question” doctrine.139 But Baker v. Carr140 reinterpreted the doctrine in considerable degree and opened the federal courts to voter complaints founded on unequally populated voting districts. Wesberry v. Sanders141 found in Article I, Sec. 2, of the Constitution a command that in the election of Members of the House of Representatives districts were to be made up of substantially equal numbers of persons. In six decisions handed down on June 15, 1964, the Court required the alteration of the election districts for practically all the legislative bodies in the United States.142

“We hold that, as a basic constitutional standard, the Equal Protection Clause requires that the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis. Simply stated, an individual’s right to vote for state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted when compared with the votes of citizens living in other parts of the State.”143 What was required was that each[p.1903]State “make an honest and good faith effort to construct districts, in both houses of its legislature, as nearly of equal population as is practicable. We realize that it is a practical impossibility to arrange legislative districts so that each one has an identical number of residents, or citizens, or voters. Mathematical exactness or precision is hardly a workable constitutional requirement.”144

Among the principal issues raised by these decisions were which units were covered by the principle, to what degree of exactness population equality had to be achieved, and to what other elements of the apportionment and districting process the equal protection clause extended.

The first issue has largely been resolved, although some few problem areas persist. It has been held that a school board the members of which were appointed by boards elected in units of disparate populations and which exercised only administrative powers rather than legislative powers was not subject to the principle of the apportionment ruling.145 Avery v. Midland County146 held that when a State delegates lawmaking power to local government and provides for the election by district of the officials to whom the power is delegated, the districts must be established of substantially equal populations. But in Hadley v. Junior College District,147 the Court abandoned much of the limitation which was explicit in these two decisions and held that whenever a State chooses to vest “governmental functions” in a body and to elect the members of that body from districts, the districts must have substantially equal populations. The “governmental functions” should not be characterized as “legislative” or “administrative” or necessarily important or unimportant; it is the fact that members of the body are elected from districts which triggers the application.148


The second issue has been largely but not precisely resolved. In Swann v. Adams,149 the Court set aside a lower court ruling “for the failure of the State to present or the District Court to articulate acceptable reasons for the variations among the populations of the various legislative districts. . . . De minimis deviations are unavoidable, but variations of 30% among senate districts and 40% among house districts can hardly be deemed de minimis and none of our cases suggests that differences of this magnitude will be approved without a satisfactory explanation grounded on acceptable state policy.” Two congressional district cases were disposed of on the basis of Swann,150 but when the Court ruled that no congressional districting could be approved without a “good–faith effort to achieve precise mathematical equality” or the justification of “each variance, no matter how small,151 it did not then purport to utilize this standard in judging legislative apportionment and districting.152 And in Abate v. Mundt153 the Court approved a plan for apportioning a county governing body which permitted a substantial population disparity, explaining that in the absence of a built–in bias tending to favor any particular area or interest, a plan could take account of localized factors in justifying deviations from equality which might in other circumstances cause the invalidation of a plan.154 The total population deviation allowed in Abate was 11.9%; the Court refused,[p.1905]however, to extend Abate to approve a total deviation of 78% resulting from an apportionment plan providing for representation of each of New York City’s five boroughs on the New York City Board of Estimate.155

Nine years after Reynolds v. Sims, the Court reexamined the population equality requirement of the apportionment cases. Relying upon language in prior decisions that distinguished legislative apportionment from congressional districting as possibly justifying different standards of permissible deviations from equality, the Court held that more flexibility is constitutionally permissible with respect to the former than to the latter.156 But it was in determining how much greater flexibility was permissible that the Court moved in new directions. First, applying the traditional standard of rationality rather than the strict test of compelling necessity, the Court held that a maximum 16.4% deviation from equality of population was justified by the State’s policy of maintaining the integrity of political subdivision lines, or according representation to subdivisions qua subdivisions, because the legislature was responsible for much local legislation.157 Second, just as the first case “demonstrates, population deviations among districts may be sufficiently large to require justification but nonetheless be justified and legally sustainable. It is now time to recognize . . . that minor deviations from mathematical equality among state legislative districts are insufficient to make out a prima facie case of invidious[p.1906]discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment so as to require justification by the State.”158 This recognition of a de minimis deviation, below which no justification was necessary, was mandated, the Court felt, by the margin of error in census statistics, by the population change over the ten–year life of an apportionment, and by the relief it afforded federal courts able thus to avoid over–involvement in essentially a political process. The “goal of fair and effective representation” is furthered by eliminating gross population variations among districts, but it is not achieved by mathematical equality solely. Other relevant factors are to be taken into account.159 But when a judicially–imposed plan is to be formulated upon state default, it “must ordinarily achieve the goal of population equality with little more than de minimis variation” and deviations from approximate population equality must be supported by enunciation of historically significant state policy or unique features.160

Gerrymandering and the permissible use of multimember districts present examples of the third major issue. It is clear that racially based gerrymandering is unconstitutional under the Fifteenth Amendment, at least when it is accomplished through the manipulation of district lines.161

Supplement: [P. 1906, add to text following n.161:]

Even if racial gerrymandering is intended to benefit minority voting populations, it is subject to strict scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause if racial considerations are the dominant and controlling rationale in drawing district lines.40 Showing that a district’s “bizarre” shape departs from traditional districting principles such as compactness, contiguity, and respect for political subdivision lines may serve to reinforce such a claim,41 although three Justices would not preclude the creation of “reasonably compact” majority–minority districts in order to remedy past discrimination or to comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.42

Partisan gerrymandering raised more difficult issues. Several lower courts ruled that the issue was beyond judicial cognizance,162 and the Supreme Court itself, upholding an apportionment plan frankly admitted to have been drawn with the intent to achieve a rough approximation of the[p.1907]statewide political strengths of the two parties, recognized the goal as legitimate and observed that, while the manipulation of apportionment and districting is not wholly immune from judicial scrutiny, “we have not ventured far or attempted the impossible task of extirpating politics from what are the essentially political processes of the sovereign States.”163

More recently, however, in a decision of potentially major import reminiscent of Baker v. Carr, the Court in Davis v. Bandemer164 ruled that partisan gerrymandering in state legislative redistricting is justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause. But although the vote was 6 to 3 in favor of justiciability, a majority of Justices could not agree on the proper test for determining whether particular gerrymandering is unconstitutional, and the lower court’s holding of unconstitutionality was reversed by vote of 7 to 2.165 Thus, while courthouse doors are now ajar for claims of partisan gerrymandering, it is unclear what it will take to succeed on the merits. On the justiciability issue, the Court viewed the “political question” criteria as no more applicable than they had been in Baker v. Carr. Because Reynolds v. Sims had declared “fair and effective representation for all citizens”166 to be “the basic aim of legislative apportionment,” and because racial gerrymandering issues had been treated as justiciable, the Court viewed the representational issues raised by partisan gerrymandering as indistinguishable. Agreement as to the existence of “judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving” gerrymandering issues, however, did not result in a consensus as to what those standards are.167 While a majority of Justices agreed that discriminatory ef[p.1908]fect as well as discriminatory intent must be shown, there was significant disagreement as to what constitutes discriminatory effect. Justice White’s plurality opinion suggested that there need be “evidence of continued frustration of the will of a majority of the voters or effective denial to a minority of voters of a fair chance to influence the political process.”168 Moreover, continued frustration of the chance to influence the political process can not be demonstrated by the results of only one election; there must be a history of disproportionate results or a finding that such results will continue. Justice Powell, joined by Justice Stevens, did not formulate a strict test, but suggested that “a heavy burden of proof” should be required, and that courts should look to a variety of factors as they relate to “the fairness of a redistricting plan” in determining whether it contains invalid gerrymandering. Among these factors are the shapes of the districts, adherence to established subdivision lines, statistics relating to vote dilution, the nature of the legislative process by which the plan was formulated, and evidence of intent revealed in legislative history.169

It had been thought that the use of multimember districts to submerge racial, ethnic, and political minorities might be treated differently,170 but in Whitcomb v. Chavis171 the Court, while dealing with the issue on the merits, so enveloped it in strict standards of proof and definitional analysis as to raise the possibility that it might be beyond judicial review.

In Chavis the Court held that inasmuch as the multimember districting represented a state policy of more than 100 years observance and could not therefore be said to be motivated by racial or political bias, only an actual showing that the multimember delegation in fact inadequately represented the allegedly submerged minority would suffice to raise a constitutional question. But the Court also rejected as impermissible the argument that any interest group had any sort of right to be represented in a legislative body, in proportion to its members’ numbers or on some other basis, so that the failure of that group to elect anyone merely meant that alone or in combination with other groups it simply lacked the strength to obtain enough votes, whether the election be[p.1909]in single–member or in multimember districts. That fact of life was not of constitutional dimension, whether the group was composed of blacks, or Republicans or Democrats, or some other category of persons. Thus, the submerging argument was rejected, as was the argument of a voter in another county that the Court should require uniform single–member districting in populous counties because voters in counties which elected large delegations in blocs had in effect greater voting power than voters in other districts; this argument the Court found too theoretical and too far removed from the actualities of political life.

Subsequently, and surprisingly in light of Chavis, the Court in White v. Regester172 affirmed a district court invalidation of the use of multimember districts in two Texas counties on the ground that, when considered in the totality of the circumstances of discrimination in registration and voting and in access to other political opportunities, such use denied African Americans and Mexican Americans the opportunity to participate in the election process in a reliable and meaningful manner.173

Doubt was cast on the continuing vitality of White v. Regester, however, by the badly split opinion of the Court in City of Mobile v. Bolden.174 A plurality undermined the earlier case in two respects, although it is not at all clear that a majority of the Court had been or could be assembled on either point. First, the plurality argued that an intent to discriminate on the part of the redistricting body must be shown before multimember districting can be held to violate the equal protection clause.175 Second, the plurality read White v. Regester as being consistent with this principle and the various factors developed in that case to demonstrate the existence of unconstitutional discrimination to be in fact indicia of intent; however, the plurality seemingly disregarded the totality of[p.1910]circumstances test utilized in Regester and evaluated instead whether each factor alone was sufficient proof of intent.176

Again switching course, the Court in Rogers v. Lodge177 approved the findings of the lower courts that a multimember electoral system for electing a county board of commissioners was being maintained for a racially discriminatory purpose, although it had not been instituted for that purpose. Applying a totality of the circumstances test, and deferring to lower court factfinding, the Court, in an opinion by one of the Mobile dissenters, canvassed a range of factors which it held could combine to show a discriminatory motive, and largely overturned the limitations which the Mobile plurality had attempted to impose in this area. With the enactment of federal legislation specifically addressed to the issue of multimember districting and dilution of the votes of racial minorities, however, it may be that the Court will have little further opportunity to develop the matter in the context of constitutional litigation.178 In Thornburg v. Gingles,179 the Court held that multimember districting violates Sec. 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting power of a racial minority when that minority is “sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single–member district,” when it is politically cohesive, and when block voting by the majority “usually” defeats preferred candidates of the minority.

Finally, it should be said that the Court has approved the discretionary exercise of equity powers by the lower federal courts in drawing district boundaries and granting other relief in districting and apportionment cases,180 although that power is bounded by[p.1911]the constitutional violations found, so that courts do not have carte blanche, and they should ordinarily respect the structural decisions made by state legislatures and the state constitutions.181


139 Supra, pp. 687–98. Applicability of the doctrine to cases of this nature was left unresolved in Smiley v. Holm, 285 U.S. 355 (1932) , and Wood v. Broom, 287 U.S. 1 (1932) , was supported by only a plurality in Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549 (1946) , but became the position of the Court in subsequent cases. Cook v. Fortson, 329 U.S. 675 (1946) ; Colegrove v. Barrett, 330 U.S. 804 (1947) ; MacDougall v. Green, 335 U.S. 281 (1948) ; South v. Peters, 339 U.S. 276 (1950) ; Hartsfield v. Sloan, 357 U.S. 916 (1958) .
140 369 U.S. 186 (1962) .
141 376 U.S. 1 (1964) . Supra, pp. 106–08. Striking down a county unit system of electing a governor, the Court, in an opinion by Justice Douglas, had already coined a variant phrase of the more popular “one man, one vote.” “The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing—one person, one vote.” Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 381 (1963) .
142 Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964) ; WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo, 377 U.S. 633 (1964) ; Maryland Comm. for Fair Representation v. Tawes, 377 U.S. 656 (1964) ; Donis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678 (1964) ; Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695 (1964) ; Lucas v. Forty–Fourth General Assembly of Colorado, 377 U.S. 713 (1964) . In the last case, the Court held that approval of the apportionment plan in a vote of the people was insufficient to preserve it from constitutional attack. “An individual’s constitutionally protected right to cast an equally weighed vote cannot be denied even by a vote of a majority of a State’s electorate, if the apportionment scheme adopted by the voters fails to measure up to the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause.” Id. at 736. Justice Harlan dissented wholly, denying that the equal protection clause had any application at all to apportionment and districting and contending that the decisions were actually the result of a “reformist” nonjudicial attitude on the part of the Court. 377U.S. at 589 377U.S. at 589. Justices Stewart and Clark dissented in two and concurred in four cases on the basis of their view that the equal protection clause was satisfied by a plan that was rational and that did not systematically frustrate the majority will. 377 U.S., 741, 744.
143 Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 568 (1964) .
144 Id. at 577.
145 Sailors v. Board of Education, 387 U.S. 105 (1967) .
146 390 U.S. 474 (1968) . Justice Harlan continued his dissent from the Reynolds line of cases, id. at 486, while Justices Fortas and Stewart called for a more discerning application and would not have applied the principle to the county council here. Id. at 495, 509.
147 397 U.S. 50 (1970) . The governmental body here was the board of trustees of a junior college district. Justices Harlan and Stewart and Chief Justice Burger dissented. Id. at 59, 70.
148 The Court observed that there might be instances “in which a State elects certain functionaries whose duties are so far removed from normal governmental activities and so disproportionately affect different groups that a popular election in compliance with Reynolds supra, might not be required. . . .” Id. at 56. For cases involving such units, see Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Water Storage Dist., 410 U.S. 719 (1973) ; Associated Enterprises v. Toltec Watershed Imp. Dist., 410 U.S. 743 (1973) ; Ball v. James, 451 U.S. 355 (1981) . Judicial districts need not comply with Reynolds. Wells v. Edwards, 347 F. Supp. 453 (M.D. La. 1972) (three–judge court), aff’d. per curiam, 409 U.S. 1095 (1973) .
149 385 U.S. 440, 443–44 (1967) . See also Kilgarlin v. Hill, 386 U.S. 120 (1967) .
150 Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 385 U.S. 450 (1967) ; Duddleston v. Grills, 385 U.S. 455 (1967) .
151 Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 530–31 (1969) ; Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542 (1969) . Supra, pp. 107–08. The Court has continued to adhere to this strict standard for congressional districting, voiding a plan in which the maximum deviation between largest and smallest district was 0.7%, or 3,674 persons. Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983) (rejecting assertion that deviations less than estimated census error are necessarily permissible).
152 The Court relied on Swann in disapproving of only slightly smaller deviations (roughly 28% and 25%) in Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 161–63 (1971) . In Connor v. Williams, 404 U.S. 549, 550 (1972) , the Court said of plaintiffs’ reliance on Preisler and Wells that “these decisions do not squarely control the instant appeal since they do not concern state legislative apportionment, but they do raise substantial questions concerning the constitutionality of the District Court’s plan as a design for permanent apportionment.”
153 403 U.S. 182 (1971) .
154 It should also be noted that while the Court has used total population figures for purposes of computing variations between districts, it did approve in Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73 (1966) , the use of eligible voter population as the basis for apportioning in the context of a State with a large transient military population, but with the caution that such a basis would be permissible only so long as the results did not diverge substantially from that obtained by using a total population base. Merely discounting for military populations was disapproved in Davis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678, 691 (1964) , but whether some more precise way of distinguishing between resident and nonresident population would be constitutionally permissible is unclear. Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526, 534 (1969) ; Hadley v. Junior College Dist., 397 U.S. 50, 57 n.9 (1970) .
155 New York City Bd. of Estimate v. Morris, 489 U.S. 688 (1989) . Under the plan each of the City’s five boroughs was represented on the board by its president and each of these members had one vote; three citywide elected officials (the mayor, the comptroller, and the president of the city council) were also placed on the board and given two votes apiece (except that the mayor had no vote on the acceptance or modification of his budget proposal). The Court also ruled that, when measuring population deviation for a plan that mixes at–large and district representation, the at–large representation must be taken into account. Id. at 699–701.
156 Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 320–25 (1973) .
157 Id. at 325–30. The Court indicated that a 16.4% deviation “may well approach tolerable limits.” Id. at 329. Dissenting, Justices Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall would have voided the plan; additionally, they thought the deviation was actually 23.6% and that the plan discriminated geographically against one section of the State, an issue not addressed by the Court. In Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 21–26 (1975) , holding that a 20% variation in a court–developed plan was not justified, the Court indicated that such a deviation in a legislatively– produced plan would be quite difficult to justify. See also Summers v. Cenarrusa, 413 U.S. 906 (1973) (vacating and remanding for further consideration the approval of a 19.4% deviation). In Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835 (1983) , the Court held that a consistent state policy assuring each county at least one representative can justify substantial deviation from population equality when only the marginal impact of representation for the state’s least populous county was challenged (the effect on plaintiffs, voters in larger districts, was that they would elect 28 of 64 members rather than 28 of 63), but there was indication in Justice O’Connor’s concurring opinion that a broader–based challenge to the plan, which contained a 16% average deviation and an 89% maximum deviation, could have succeeded.

Supplement: [P. 1905, add to n.157 after citation for Summers v. Cenarrusa:]

But see Voinovich v. Quilter, 507 U.S. 146 (1993) (vacating and remanding for further consideration the rejection of a deviation in excess of 10 percent intended to preserve political subdivision boundaries).

158 Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 745 (1973) . The maximum deviation was 7.83%. The Court did not precisely indicate at what point a deviation had to be justified, but it applied the de minimis standard in White v. Regester, 412 U.S. 755 (1973) , in which the maximum deviation was 9.9%. “Very likely, larger differences between districts would not be tolerable without justifications.” Id. at 764. Justices Brennan, Douglas, and Marshall dissented. See also Brown v. Thomson, 462 U.S. 835, 842 (1983) : “Our decisions have established, as a general matter, that an apportionment plan with a maximum population deviation under 10% falls within [the] category of minor deviations [insufficient to make out a prima facie case].”
159 Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 748 (1973) . By contrast, the Court has held that estimated margin of error for census statistics does not justify deviation from population equality in congressional districting. Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983) .
160 Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 21–27 (1975) . The Court did say that court–ordered reapportionment of a state legislature need not attain the mathematical preciseness required for congressional redistricting. Id. at 27 n.19. Apparently, therefore, the Court’s reference to both “de minimis” variations and “approximate population equality” must be read as referring to some range approximating the Gaffney principle. See also Connor v. Finch, 431 U.S. 407 (1977) .
161 Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960) ; Wright v. Rockefeller, 376 U.S. 52 (1964) ; Sims v. Baggett, 247 F. Supp. 96 (M.D. Ala. 1965) (three–judge court).

Supplement: [P. 1906, add to n.161:]

Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541 (1999) .

162 E.g., WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo, 238 F. Supp. 916 (S.D.N.Y. 1965) (three–judge court), aff’d, 382 U.S. 4 (1965) ; Sincock v. Gately, 262 F. Supp. 739 (D. Del. 1967) (three–judge court).
163 Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U.S. 735, 751, 754 (1973) .
164 478 U.S. 109 (1986) . The vote on justiciability was 6–3, with Justice White’s opinion of the Court being joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, and Stevens. This represented an apparent change of view by 3 of the majority Justices, who just 2 years earlier had denied that “the existence of noncompact or gerrymandered districts is by itself a constitutional violation.” Karcher v. Daggett, 466 U.S. 910, 917 (1983) (Justice Brennan, joined by Justices White and Marshall, dissenting from denial of stay in challenge to district court’s rejection of a remedial districting plan on the basis that it contained “an intentional gerrymander”).
165 Only Justices Powell and Stevens thought the Indiana redistricting plan void; Justice White, joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun, thought the record inadequate to demonstrate continuing discriminatory impact, and Justice O’Connor, joined by Chief Justice Burger and by Justice Rehnquist, would have ruled that partisan gerrymandering is nonjusticiable as constituting a political question not susceptible to manageable judicial standards.
166 377 U.S. 533, 565–66 (1964) . This phrase has had a life of its own in the commentary. See D. Alfange, Jr., Gerrymandering and the Constitution: Into the Thorns of the Thicket at Last, 1986 Sup. Ct. Rev. 175, and sources cited therein. It is not clear from its original context, however, that the phrase was coined with such broad application in mind.
167 The quotation is from the Baker v. Carr measure for existence of a political question, 369 U.S. 186, 217 (1962) .
168 478U.S. at 133 478U.S. at 133. Joining in this part of the opinion were Justices Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun.
169 478U.S. at 173 478U.S. at 173. A similar approach had been proposed in Justice Stevens’ concurring opinion in Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725, 744 (1983) .
170 Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 439 (1965) ; Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 88–89 (1965) ; Kilgarlin v. Hill, 386 U.S. 120, 125 n.3 (1967) .
171 403 U.S. 124 (1971) . Justice Harlan concurred specially, id. at 165, and Justices Douglas, Brennan, and Marshall, dissented, finding racial discrimination in the operation of the system. Id. at 171.
172 412 U.S. 755, 765–70 (1973) .
173 “To sustain such claims, it is not enough that the racial group allegedly discriminated against has not had legislative seats in proportion to its voting potential. The plaintiffs’ burden is to produce evidence to support findings that the political processes leading to nomination and election were not equally open to participation by the group in question—that its members had less opportunity than did other residents in the district to participate in the political processes and to elect legislators of their choice.” Id. at 765–66.
174 446 U.S. 55 (1980) . On Congress’ response to the case, see supra, pp. 1818–19; infra, p. 1936.
175 Id. at 65–68 (Justices Stewart, Powell, Rehnquist, and Chief Justice Burger). On intent versus impact analysis, see supra, pp. 1815–20. Justices Blackmun and Stevens concurred on other grounds, id. at 80, 83, and Justices White, Brennan, and Marshall dissented. Id. at 94, 103. Justice White agreed that purposeful discrimination must be found, id. at 101, while finding it to have been shown, Justice Blackmun assumed that intent was required, and Justices Stevens, Brennan, and Marshall would not so hold.
176 Id. at 68–74. Four Justices rejected this view of the plurality, while Justice Stevens also appeared to do so but followed a mode of analysis significantly different than that of any other Justice.
177 458 U.S. 613 (1982) . Joining the opinion of the Court were Justices White, Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, O’Connor, and Chief Justice Burger. Dissenting were Justices Powell and Rehnquist, id. at 628, and Justice Stevens. Id. at 631.
178 On the legislation, see supra, pp. 1818–19; infra, p. 1936.
179 478 U.S. 30, 50–51 (1986) . Use of multimember districting for purposes of political gerrymandering was at issue in Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986) , decided the same day as Gingles, but there was no agreement as to the appropriate constitutional standard. A plurality led by Justice White relied on the Whitcomb v. Chavis reasoning, suggesting that proof that multimember districts were constructed for the advantage of one political party falls short of the necessary showing of deprivation of opportunity to participate in the electoral process. 478U.S. at 136–37 478U.S. at 136–37. Two Justices thought the proof sufficient for a holding of invalidity, the minority party having won 46% of the vote but only 3 of 21 seats from the multimember districts, and “the only discernible pattern [being] the appearance of these districts in areas where their winner–take–all aspects can best be employed to debase [one party’s] voting strength,” (id. at at 179–80, Justices Powell and Stevens), and three Justices thought political gerrymandering claims to be nonjusticiable.
180 E.g., Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 586–87 (1964) ; Sixty– Seventh Minnesota State Senate v. Beens, 406 U.S. 187, 195–200 (1972) ; White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 794–95 (1973) ; Upham v. Seamon, 456 U.S. 37, 41–42 (1982) . When courts draw their own plans, the court is held to tighter standards than is a legislature and has to observe smaller population deviations and utilize single–member districts more than multimember ones. Connor v. Johnson, 402 U.S. 690, 692 (1971) ; Chapman v. Meier, 420 U.S. 1, 14–21 (1975) ; Wise v. Lipscomb, 437 U.S. 535, 540 (1978) . Cf. Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 333 (1973) .
181 E.g., Sixty–Seventh Minnesota State Senate v. Beens, 406 U.S. 187 (1972) (reduction of numbers of members); Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 160–61 (1971) (disregard of policy of multimember districts not found unconstitutional); White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783, 794–95 (1973) ; Upham v. Seamon, 406 U.S. 37 (1982) . But see Karcher v. Daggett, 466 U.S. 910 (1983) (denying cert. over dissent’s suggestion that court–adopted congressional districting plan had strayed too far from the structural framework of the legislature’s invalidated plan).

Supplement Footnotes

40 Miller v. Johnson, 515 U.S. 900 (1995) (drawing congressional district lines in order to comply with § 5 of the Voting Rights Act as interpreted by the Department of Justice not a compelling governmental interest).
41 Id.; Shaw v. Reno, 509 U.S. 630 (1993) . See also Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) (creating an unconventionally–shaped majority–minority congressional district in one portion of State in order to alleviate effect of fragmenting geographically compact minority population in another portion of State does not remedy a violation of § 2 of Voting Rights Act, and is thus not a compelling governmental interest).
42 Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952, 979 (1996) (opinion of Justice O’Connor, joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Kennedy) (also involving congressional districts).
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