Wells v. Rockefeller
394 U.S. 542 (1969)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542 (1969)

Wells v. Rockefeller

No. 238

Argued January 13, 1969

Decided April 7, 1969

394 U.S. 542

Syllabus

New York's 1968 congressional districting statute treated seven sections of the State as homogeneous regions and divided each of these regions into districts of virtually identical population. Thirty-one of the 41 districts were thus constructed, with the remaining 10 composed of groupings of whole counties. The most populous district had more than 26,000 (6.488%) above the mean population, while the smallest district had over 27,000 (6.608%) below the mean. The District Court sustained the statute, stating that the plan afforded the voters "an opportunity to vote in the 1968 and 1970 elections on the basis of population equality within reasonably comparable districts."

Held:

1. The holding of Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, ante, p. 394 U. S. 526, that

"the command of Art. I, § 2, that States create congressional districts which provide equal representation for equal numbers of people permits only the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a good faith effort to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown,"

requires equalized population in all districts, and is not satisfied by equalizing population only within defined sub-states. P. 394 U. S. 546.

(a) There is no claim that New York made a good faith effort to achieve precise mathematical equality among its 41 districts. P. 394 U. S. 546.

(b) "[T]o accept population variances, large or small, in order to create districts with specific interest orientations is antithetical to the basic premise of the constitutional command to provide equal representation for equal numbers of people." Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, supra, at 394 U. S. 533. P. 394 U. S. 546.

(c) Variances cannot be justified by the fact that some districts are constructed of entire counties. P. 394 U. S. 546.

2. In view of the ample time remaining to promulgate a constitutional plan prior to the 1970 election, as distinguished from the 1968 election, the District Court's judgment is reversed insofar as it approved the plan for the 1970 election. P. 394 U. S. 547.

281 F.Supp. 821, reversed in part and remanded.

Page 394 U. S. 543

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