Following this Court's decisions in Swann v. Adams
invalidating the apportionment of the Florida Legislature (378 U.S.
553) and the subsequent reapportionment which the District Court
had found unconstitutional but approved on an interim basis (
383 U. S. 383
210), the Florida Legislature adopted still another legislative
reapportionment plan, which appellants, residents and voters of
Dade County, Florida, attacked as failing to meet the standards of
voter equality set forth in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.
, and companion cases. The new plan provides for
48 senators and 117 representatives. The senate districts range
from 15.09% overrepresentation to 10.56% underrepresentation, the
ratio between the largest and smallest district being 1.30 to 1.
The house districts range from 18.28% overrepresentation to 15.27%
underrepresentation, the ratio between the largest and the smallest
district being 1.41 to 1. The State failed to present any
acceptable reasons for the population variance between districts,
indicating only that it was attempting to follow congressional
district lines and that its plan came as close as "practical" to
complete population equality, though appellants' proposed plan
showed the feasibility of measurably reducing population
differences between districts. Though recognizing that
"apportionment must be substantially on a population basis," the
District Court held the variations not discriminatory and upheld
1. Appellants have standing to attack the reapportionment. P.
385 U. S.
2. The State's failure to articulate acceptable reasons for
population variances between districts invalidates the
reapportionment plan. Pp. 385 U. S.
(a) Allowable deviations from equality of population between
legislative districts are confined to minor variations which "are
based on legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of
a rational state policy." Reynolds v. Sims, supra,
377 U.S. 579
385 U. S.
Page 385 U. S. 441
(b) Minor variations from a pure population standard must be
nondiscriminatory and justified by state policy considerations such
as integrity of political subdivisions, maintenance of compactness
and contiguity in legislative districts, or recognition of natural
or historical boundary lines. P. 385 U. S.
(c) Variation from the norm approved in one State has little
relevance to the validity of a similar variation in another State.
P. 385 U. S.
MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents still another development in the efforts of
the State of Florida to apportion its legislature in accordance
with the requirements of the Federal Constitution. There have been
previous chapters in this story. The litigation began in 1962. On
June 22, 1964, in Swann v. Adams, 378 U.
, we reversed the judgment of the three-judge
District Court upholding the then-current legislative apportionment
in Florida and remanded the case for further proceedings,
consistent with the Court's opinion in Reynolds v. Sims,
377 U. S. 533
its companion cases. The District Court then deferred further
action until the conclusion of the legislative session which
convened on April 6, 1965. The
Page 385 U. S. 442
legislature proceeded to reapportion the State on June 29, 1965.
The District Court forthwith held the new plan failed to meet the
requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment, but approved the plan on
an interim basis, limiting it to the period ending 60 days after
the adjournment of the 1967 session of the Florida Legislature.
This Court, finding no warrant for perpetuating what all conceded
was an unconstitutional apportionment for another three years,
reversed the judgment and remanded the case to the District Court
so that a valid reapportionment plan would be made effective for
the 1966 elections. Swann v. Adams, 383 U.
. The Florida Legislature again acted on the
matter in March, 1966, by adopting still another reapportionment
plan which the appellants promptly attacked in the District
The new plan provides for 48 senators and 117 representatives,
and includes what, in effect, are multimember districts for each
house. The senate districts range from 87,595 to 114,053 in
population per senator, or from 15.09% overrepresented to 10.56%
underrepresented. The ratio between the largest and the smallest
district is thus 1.30 to 1. The deviation from the average
population per senator is greater than 15% in one senatorial
district, is greater than 14% in five more districts, and is more
than 10% in still six other districts. Approximately 25% of the
State's population living in one quarter of the total number of
senatorial districts is underrepresented or overrepresented by at
least 10%. The minimum percentage of persons that could elect a
majority of 25 senators is 48.38%.
In the house, the population per representative ranges from
34,584 to 48,785, or from 18.28% overrepresented to 15.27%
underrepresented. The ratio between the largest and the smallest
representative district is 1.41 to 1. Two districts vary from the
norm by more than 18%,
Page 385 U. S. 443
and another by more than 15%, these three districts having seven
of the 117 representatives. Ten other districts with 22
representatives vary from the norm by more than 10%. There is thus
a deviation of more than 10% in districts which elect 29 of the 117
representatives; 24.35% of the State's population lives in these
districts. The minimum percentage of persons that could elect a
majority of 59 representatives is 47.79%.
The District Court recognized that "apportionment must be
substantially on a population basis" but that "[m]athematical
exactness or precision is not required." It went on to hold
"[s]uch departures as there are from the ideal are not
sufficient in number or great enough in percentages to require an
upsetting of the legislative plan. . . . [W]hat deviation there is
does not discriminate to any great extent against any section of
the state, or against either rural or urban interests."
, 826, 827. Accordingly, the plan was held
The State would have us dismiss this case for lack of standing
on the part of appellants to maintain this appeal because
appellants are from Dade County, Florida, which appellants concede
has received constitutional treatment under the legislative plan.
Appellants, however, had before the District Court their own plan
which would have accorded different treatment to Dade County in
some respects as compared with the legislative plan, and the
alternative plan was rejected by the District Court. Moreover, the
District Court has apparently consistently denied intervention to
other plaintiffs, seemingly treating the appellants as representing
other citizens in the State. The challenge to standing cannot
We reverse 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
Page 385 U. S. 444
legislative districts with respect to both the senate and house
of representatives. Reynolds v. Sims, supra,
that mathematical exactness is not required in state apportionment
plans. 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. On the contrary, the Reynolds
opinion limited the
allowable deviations to those minor variations which "are based on
legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a
rational state policy." 377 U. S. 377
533, 377 U.S. 579
that opinion went on to indicate that variations from a pure
population standard might be justified by such state policy
considerations as the integrity of political subdivisions, the
maintenance of compactness and contiguity in legislative districts,
or the recognition of natural or historical boundary lines.
Likewise, in Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.
, the Court stated that the Constitution permits
"such minor deviations only as may occur in recognizing certain
factors that are free from any taint of arbitrariness or
The State relies on Forty-fourth General Assembly of
Colorado v. Lucas, 379 U. S. 693
Burnette v. Davis, 382 U. S. 42
Harrison v. Schaefer, 383 U. S. 269
which were per curiam affirmances of lower court judgments in
reapportionment cases. The State suggests that the plans approved
in those cases involved variations in magnitude equal to or greater
than those revealed by the Florida apportionment, and, for that
reason, the judgment here should be affirmed. But in none of these
cases was the issue of the validity of the differences in
population between various legislative districts either raised or
ruled upon in this Court. There was no occasion to explore whether
or not there was ample justification for the
Page 385 U. S. 445
challenged variations. And in Lucas v. Forty-fourth General
Assembly of State of Colorado, 377 U.
, 377 U. S. 727
377 U. S.
-735, the Court expressly reserved decision upon the
validity of a variance ratio of 1.7 to 1. In any event, the fact
that a 10% or 15% variation from the norm is approved in one State
has little bearing on the validity of a similar variation in
another State. "What is marginally permissible in one State may be
unsatisfactory in another, depending on the particular
circumstances of the case." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.
, 377 U.S.
As this case comes to us, we have no alternative but to reverse.
The District Court made no attempt to explain or justify the many
variations among the legislative districts. As for the State, all
it suggested in either the lower court or here is that its plan
comes as close as "practical" to complete population equality and
that the State was attempting to follow congressional district
lines. There was, however, no attempt to justify any particular
deviations, even the larger ones, with respect to either of these
considerations. Moreover, the State's brief states only that the
legislature followed "in most instances" the congressional
boundaries, and, with respect to "practicality," it seems quite
obvious that the State could have come much closer to providing
districts of equal population than it did. The appellants
themselves placed before the court their own plan which revealed
much smaller variations between the districts than did the plan
approved by the District Court. Furthermore, appellants suggested
to the District Court specific amendments to the legislative plan
which, if they had been accepted, would have measurably reduced the
population differences between many of the districts. Appellants'
own plan and their suggested amendments to the legislative plan
might have been infirm in other respects but they do demonstrate
that a closer approximation to equally populated districts was a
Page 385 U. S. 446
undertaking. The State, with admirable candor, states that it
offered no evidence in the District Court to explain the challenged
variations with respect to either the house or the senate. In its
view, however, the plan should be approved on the record as it
We think the better view is that taken by the three-judge court
in Maryland which disapproved a legislative plan involving an
overrepresentation of 14.90% and an underrepresentation of 14.38%
because, as Judge Sobeloff said, there was "no showing in this case
that the difference of one-third is unavoidable or justified upon
any legally acceptable ground." Maryland Citizens Committee for
Fair Congressional Redistricting, Inc. v.
Tawes, 253 F.
, 733. Compare League of Nebraska Municipalities
24 F. Supp. 357, disapproving a ratio of 1.6 to 1
between the smallest and the largest district absent satisfactory
explanation by the State, and Paulson v.
Meier, 246 F. Supp.
, which found a ratio between the smallest and largest
district of 1.39 to 1 to be unjustified on the basis offered by the
The appellants complain of other aspects of the plan besides
unequally populated legislative districts. Under the new statute,
three senators were not required to run for election in 1966, but
were allowed to finish their present terms expiring in 1968. These
three senators, as the District Court noted, were elected in
districts that are identical in territory to their districts under
the legislative plan. Also, one senate and six house seats were
subject to residency requirements. The District Court found no
invidious discrimination in these aspects of the plan. Appellants
also claim that the legislative plan discriminates invidiously by
underrepresenting the populous urban counties and by
overrepresenting the sparsely settled rural counties in both
houses. The court below found that
"what deviation there is does not
Page 385 U. S. 447
discriminate to any great extent against any section of the
state or against either rural or urban interests."
, 827. In the light of our disposition of this case,
however, we need not reach and decide any of these additional
issues, although we note that Reynolds v. Sims
the constitutional impropriety of maintaining deviations from the
equal population principle in deference to area and economic or
other group interests. 377 U. S. 377
533, 377 U.S. 579
MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, whom MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins,
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533
laid down a "one man, one vote" mandate for the structuring of all
state legislatures, but the Court there recognized, as it does
again today, that
"mathematical exactness . . . is not required,' ante
385 U. S. 443
, and that
variations are acceptable if they 'are based on legitimate
considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state
policy. . . ."
377 U.S. at 377 U.S.
, cited ante
at 385 U. S. 444
The Court refuses, however, to accept Florida's present legislative
apportionment plan, at least on the record before us, because
neither the State nor the District Court justified the relatively
minor variations in population among some of the districts.
This holding seems to me to stand on its head the usual rule
governing this Court's approach to the validity of legislative
enactments, state as well as federal, which is, of course, that
they come to us with a strong presumption of regularity and
constitutionality. See, e.g., 51 U. S.
10 How. 402; Davis v. Department of Labor
and Industries of Washington, 317 U.
; Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.
. Accordingly, I do not believe the burden is on
the State to justify every aspect of a complex plan completely
restructuring its legislature, on pain of its
Page 385 U. S. 448
being declared constitutionally invalid by the judiciary. I can
think of no other area of law in which there is an analogous
presumption of invalidity attaching to a legislative enactment of a
State in an area of its admitted competence and superior
experience. The burden of showing unconstitutionality should be
left here, as in other cases, on the attacking party.
I would affirm the judgment of the District Court on the grounds
(1) that the plan enacted by the Florida Legislature is in
substantial compliance with the rule of Reynolds v. Sims, supra,
and (2) that the appellants have not shown any invidious purpose
for, or effect flowing from, the mathematical variations among