WHITE V. WEISER, 412 U. S. 783 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

White v. Weiser, 412 U.S. 783 (1973)

White v. Weiser

No. 71-1623

Argued February 26, 1973

Decided June 18, 1973

412 U.S. 783


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. I, § 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 contiguous than the other plans.


1. Although the percentage deviations in S.B. 1 are smaller than those invalidated in Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U. S. 526, and Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U. S. 542, 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, at 394 U. S. 533-534. Pp. 412 U. S. 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, 384 U. S. 89 n. 16, 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. 412 U. S. 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. 412 U. S. 792-793.

Page 412 U. S. 784

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. 412 U. S. 793-797.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in Part I of which all Members joined and in Part II of which BURGER, C.J.,and DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BURGER, C.J.,and REHNQUIST, J., joined, post, p. 412 U. S. 798. MARSHALL, J., filed an opinion concurring in part in Part II of the opinion of the Court, post, p. 412 U. S. 798.

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