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WMCA, INC. V. LOMENZO, 377 U. S. 633 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo, 377 U.S. 633 (1964)

WMCA, Inc. v. Lomenzo

No. 20

Argued November 12-13, 1963

Decided June 15, 1964

377 U.S. 633


Appellants, including voters in several of New York State's most populous counties, filed suit on their own behalf and for others similarly situated, against various state and local election officials, attacking the legislative apportionment system as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The 1894 New York Constitution provides for a complex "ratio" system of senatorial apportionment, with the county as the basic unit, yielding separate and diverse ratios for "populous" and "less populous" counties, and resulting in comparatively less representation for the populous counties. Under the existing apportionment, senators representing 40.9% of the State's citizens comprised a majority in the Senate, and the most populous senatorial district had 2.4 times as many citizens as the least populous one. Gross disparities would remain under the forthcoming apportionment. Similarly, the provisions for apportioning Assembly seats resulted in establishing three separate categories of counties with distinctly different population ratios, and also favored the less populous counties. Under the existing apportionment, assemblemen representing 37.1% of the State's citizens constituted a majority in the Assembly, and the most populous assembly district had 11.9 times as many citizens as the least populous one. Gross disparities would remain under the forthcoming apportionment. No initiative procedure exists under New York law, and no adequate political remedy for malapportionment is available. The District Court initially denied relief, holding the issues nonjusticiable. This Court, in 370 U. S. 190, vacated that judgment and remanded for further consideration in the light of Baker v. Carr, 369 U. S. 186. Thereafter, the District Court dismissed the complaint on the merits, concluding that the constitutional provisions were not arbitrary or irrational in giving weight to "area, accessibility and character of interest" in addition to population.

Held: chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 377 U. S. 634

1. The Equal Protection Clause requires that both houses of a bicameral state legislature be apportioned substantially on an equal population basis. Reynolds v. Sims, ante, p. 377 U. S. 533, followed. P. 377 U. S. 653.

2. Neither house of the New York Legislature is now, or will be when reapportioned on 1960 census figures, apportioned sufficiently on a population basis to be constitutionally sustainable. Pp. 653- 377 U. S. 654.

(a) No matter how sophisticated or complex an apportionment plan may be, it cannot significantly undervalue the votes of citizens merely because of where they reside. P. 377 U. S. 653.

(b) A formula with a built-in bias against voters residing in the more populous counties cannot be constitutionally condoned. Pp. 377 U. S. 653-654.

3. Using equitable principles, the District Court must determine whether, in view of the imminence of the 1964 election, that election may be held under the existing apportionment provisions, or whether effectuation of appellants' rights should not be further delayed. P. 377 U. S. 655.

208 F. Supp. 368, reversed and remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 377 U. S. 635

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