Davis v. Mann,
377 U.S. 678 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Davis v. Mann, 377 U.S. 678 (1964)

Davis v. Mann

No. 69

Argued November 14, 18, 1963

Decided June 15, 1964

377 U.S. 678


Complainants, certain Virginia voters, brought this action against appellants, various officials having state election duties, challenging the statutory provisions apportioning seats in the Virginia Legislature as violative of the Equal Protection Clause. While the Virginia Constitution provides for decennial reapportionment the establishment of districts rests in the discretion of the legislature, which has been guided chiefly by population, but which has also considered factors such as compactness and contiguity of territory, geographic features, and community of interests. Under the existing apportionment, the State is divided into 36 senatorial districts, with 40 senators, and 70 House districts with 100 delegates. The maximum population variance ratios between the most populous and least populous senatorial and House districts are, respectively, 2.65 to 1 and 4.36 to 1; and, under the 1962 apportionment, about 41.1% of the State's total population reside in districts electing a majority of the Senate, and about 40.5% in districts electing a majority of the House. No adequate political remedy for legislative reapportionment exists in Virginia, and no initiative procedure is provided for. Appellants before the three-judge court which was convened to decide the case showed the number of military or military-related personnel in the areas where complainants resided, disparities from population-based representation among the various States in the Federal Electoral College, and results of a comparative study showing Virginia as eighth among the States in population-based legislative representativeness. The District Court entered an interlocutory order holding Virginia's legislative apportionment unconstitutional, and refused to abstain pending the obtaining of the state courts' views on the validity of the apportionment. The Court refused to defer deciding the case until after the January, 1964, regular session of the legislature, and retained jurisdiction for the entry of necessary orders.


1. Neither of the houses of the Virginia General Assembly is apportioned sufficiently on a population basis to be constitutionally sustainable. P. 377 U. S. 690.

Page 377 U. S. 679

2. Where a federal court's jurisdiction is properly invoked and the relevant state constitutional and statutory provisions are plain and unambiguous, abstention is not necessary. P. 377 U. S. 690.

3. The Equal Protection Clause applies to failure to meet federal constitutional requirements whether the legislature periodically reapportions or fails to act. P. 377 U. S. 691.

4. The fact that large numbers of military or military-related personnel reside in the same areas as appellees cannot justify underrepresentation of those areas, because the nature of their employment alone provides no proper basis for discrimination; there was no showing that the legislature took this factor into account in making the apportionment, and, even if it had, the maximum population variance ratios would have remained impermissible. Pp. 377 U. S. 691-692.

5. The apportionment was not sustainable, either factually or legally, as involving an attempt to balance urban and rural power in the legislature. P. 377 U. S. 692.

6. Analogy to deviations from population in the Federal Electoral College provides no constitutional basis for sustaining a state apportionment scheme under the Equal Protection Clause. P. 377 U. S. 692.

7. It would be inappropriate for this Court to consider the remedies for malapportionment of the legislature, since the next election of Virginia legislators does not occur until 1965, the legislature has ample time to effect a valid reapportionment, and the District Court has retained jurisdiction to grant relief under equitable principles if necessary to ensure that no further elections are held under an unconstitutional scheme. Pp. 377 U. S. 692-693.

213 F.Supp. 577 affirmed and remanded.

Page 377 U. S. 680

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