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ROMAN V. SINCOCK, 377 U. S. 695 (1964)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Roman v. Sincock, 377 U.S. 695 (1964)

Roman v. Sincock

No. 307

Argued December 9, 1963

Decided June 15, 1964

377 U.S. 695


Appellees, voters in Delaware's most populous county, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, brought suit in the Federal District Court against officials having duties in connection with state elections, contending that the apportionment of the Delaware Legislature violated the Equal Protection Clause. Under the legislative apportionment provisions of the 1897 Delaware Constitution, in force when this litigation began, the State was divided into 17 Senate and 35 House single-member districts for electing state legislators. Both senatorial and representative districts had varied greatly in population, resulting in a maximum population variance ratio of about 15 to 1 for the Senate and 35 to 1 for the House. Districts electing a majority in the Senate and the House comprised only 22% and 18.5%, respectively, of the State's total 1960 population. A 1963 constitutional amendment, adopted by the legislature while this litigation was pending, increased the size of both houses, but left the maximum population variance ratio for the Senate about the same, while reducing the ratio for the House to about 12 to 1. Under the amendment, about two-thirds of the Senate would be elected from districts containing only about 31% of the State's population, and a majority of the House would represent districts where only 28% reside. Although repeated attempts were made through the years to reapportion the legislature or call a constitutional convention for that purpose, the Delaware Legislature failed to take any action until the 1963 amendment. No initiative or referendum procedure exists in the State. After the 1963 amendment, the District Court held that gross and invidious discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause existed against appellees and others similarly situated, both before and after the amendment, but, while retaining jurisdiction, gave the legislature further time to adopt a valid apportionment plan. However, it later enjoined the holding of any elections under the existing scheme or amendment after the chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 377 U. S. 696

Governor proclaimed a plan for House redistricting under the 1963 amendment. Appeals to this Court followed.


1. The seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must be apportioned substantially on a population basis. Reynolds v. Sims, ante, p. 377 U. S. 533, followed. P. 377 U. S. 708.

2. Neither of the houses in the Delaware General Assembly was so apportioned either before or after the 1963 amendment. P. 377 U. S. 708.

3. Reliance upon the so-called "federal analogy" to justify deviations from a population basis in apportionment of seats in the Delaware Legislature is misplaced. Reynolds v. Sims, supra, followed. Pp. 377 U. S. 708-709.

4. The Delaware apportionment scheme cannot be upheld on the basis that Congress had admitted various States into the Union although the apportionment of seats in their legislatures was based on factors other than population. P. 377 U. S. 709.

5. Rigid mathematical standards for evaluating the constitutional validity of a state legislative apportionment scheme under the Equal Protection Clause are neither practicable nor desirable. P. 377 U. S. 710.

6. Applying general equitable principles, the District Court must determine whether it would be advisable to allow the 1964 election of the Delaware legislators to be conducted under the provisions of the 1963 amendment in the interest of avoiding possible disruption of state election processes and permitting the Delaware Legislature to adopt a constitutionally valid apportionment scheme, or whether further delay in effecting appellees' constitutional rights is unjustified. Pp. 377 U. S. 711-712.

215 F. Supp. 169, affirmed and remanded. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 377 U. S. 697

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