MAHAN V. HOWELL, 410 U. S. 315 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973)

Mahan v. Howell

No. 71-364

Argued December 12, 1972

Decided February 21, 1973*

410 U.S. 315


The Virginia General Assembly in 1971 reapportioned the State for the election of state delegates and senators. The apportionment statutes, on challenge by appellees, were invalidated by a three-judge District Court, which ruled the reapportionments impermissible violations of the "one person, one vote" principle. The court substituted its own electoral districts, reducing to about 10% the percentage variation from the ideal district from the approximately 16% variation permitted by the legislature's plan but, contrary to that plan, in many instances not following political subdivision lines.


1. Reapportionment of electoral districts for Virginia's House of Delegates complied with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, since the legislature's maximum population percentage variation, which was not excessive, resulted from the State's rational objective of preserving the integrity of political subdivision lines. Pp. 410 U. S. 320-330.

(a) In the implementation of the basic constitutional principle that both houses of a bicameral state legislature be apportioned substantially on a population basis (Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533), more flexibility is permissible with respect to state legislative reapportionment than with respect to congressional redistricting. Pp. 410 U. S. 320-325.

(b) The State's objective of preserving the integrity of political subdivision lines is rational, since it furthers the legislative purpose of facilitating enactment of statutes of purely local concern and preserves for the voters in the political subdivisions a voice in the state legislature on local matters. Pp. 410 U. S. 325-328.

(c) Given the wider constitutional latitude in state legislative reapportionment, the population disparities reflected in the legislature's chanrobles.com-red

Page 410 U. S. 316

maximum percentage deviation are within tolerable constitutional limits. Pp. 410 U. S. 328-330.

2. The establishment by the legislature of three numerically ideal senatorial electoral districts by assigning to one of them about 36,700 persons who were "home-ported" at the U.S. Naval Station, Norfolk, regardless of where they actually resided, because that is where they were counted on official census tracts, was constitutionally impermissible discrimination against military personnel, cf. Davis v. Mann, 377 U. S. 678; and the District Court, which was under severe time pressures, did not abuse its discretion in prescribing an interim plan of combining the three districts into one multi-member district. Pp. 410 U. S. 330-333.

330 F.Supp. 1138, affirmed in part, reversed in part.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and STEWART, WHITE, and BLACKMUN, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Douglas and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 410 U. S. 333. POWELL, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases. chanrobles.com-red

Page 410 U. S. 317


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