KIRKPATRICK V. PREISLER, 394 U. S. 526 (1969)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526 (1969)

Kirkpatrick v. Preisler

No. 30

Argued January 13, 1969

Decided April 7, 1969*

394 U.S. 526


Missouri's 1967 congressional redistricting statute created districts which varied from the ideal, based on 1960 census figures, by 12,260 (2.84%) below to 13,542 (3.13%) above. The District Court found that the state legislature had not relied on the census reports, but used less accurate data, that it had rejected a plan with smaller variances, and that, by simply switching some counties from one district to another, it would have produced a plan with markedly reduced variances, and accordingly held that the statute did not meet the constitutional standard of equal representation "as nearly as practicable" and that the State failed to provide acceptable justification for the variances.


1. Art. I, § 2, requires that States create congressional districts which provide equal representation for equal numbers of people with

"only the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a good faith effort. to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown."

Pp. 394 U. S. 530-532.

(a) The establishment of an acceptable de minimis variance would be arbitrary, inconsistent with the "as nearly as practicable" standard commanded by Art. I, § 2, and would encourage legislators to strive for the de minimis range, rather than for equality. P. 394 U. S. 531

(b) The population variances among the Missouri congressional districts were not unavoidable. Pp. 394 U. S. 531-532.

2. Unless population variances among the districts are shown to have resulted despite the State's good faith effort to achieve equality, the State must justify each variance, no matter how small, and Missouri has not justified the variances here. Pp. 394 U. S. 531, 394 U. S. 533-536.

Page 394 U. S. 527

(a) Variances based on the creation of districts with specific interest orientations are contrary to the constitutional requirement of equal representation. P. 394 U. S. 533.

(b) Consideration of practical or partisan politics cannot justify population disparities. Pp. 394 U. S. 533-534.

(c) Even assuming that apportionment may be based on eligible voter population, rather than total population, Missouri made no serious attempt to ascertain the number of eligible voters in each district and to apportion on that basis. P. 394 U. S. 534-535.

(d) Where population shifts can be accurately predicted, States may properly consider them and apply them, not as Missouri has done, but throughout the State in a systematic manner. P. 394 U. S. 535.

(e) Claims that geographic compactness may require deviations from equality are generally unconvincing, and here Missouri's claim of compactness is based merely on the unaesthetic appearance of a congressional boundaries map that would result from changes which would achieve greater equality. Pp. 394 U. S. 535-536.

279 F.Supp. 952, affirmed.

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