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The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Court Cases

Redistricting Court Cases

Here you will find past court cases relating to Massachusetts redistricting and selected United States Supreme Court cases.

Massachusetts Court Cases from the 2000 Redistricting

Selected Supreme Court Redistricting Decisions

  • Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962)

    The court “conclude that the complaint's allegations of a denial of equal protection present a justiciable constitutional cause of action upon which appellants are entitled to a trial and a decision. The right asserted is within the reach of judicial protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Gray v. Sanders, 372 U. S. 368 (1963)

    Justice Douglas wrote, “The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing -- one person, one vote.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U. S. 1 (1964)

    The Court held “that as nearly as is practicable one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 89 (1966) (Hawaii)

    The Supreme Court noted that, “The fact that district boundaries may have been drawn in a way that minimizes the number of contests between present incumbents does not in and of itself establish invidiousness.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533 (1964)

    The Court opined that “In Wesberry v. Sanders, supra, the Court stated that congressional representation must be based on population as nearly as is practicable. In implementing the basic constitutional principle of representative government as enunciated by the Court in Wesberry—equality of population among districts—some distinctions may well be made between congressional and state legislative representation. Since, almost invariably, there is a significantly larger number of seats in state legislative bodies to be distributed within a State than congressional seats, it may be feasible to use political subdivision lines to a greater extent in establishing state legislative districts than in congressional districting while still affording adequate representation to all parts of the State.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Gaffney v. Cummings, 412 U. S. 735 (1973)

    The Court held that “We have repeatedly recognized that state reapportionment is the task of local legislatures or of those organs of state government selected to perform it. Their work should not be invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause when only minor population variations among districts are proved. Here, the proof at trial demonstrated that the House districts under the State Apportionment Board's plan varied in population from one another by a maximum of only about 8% and that the average deviation from the ideal House district was only about 2%. The Senate districts had even less variations. On such a showing, we are quite sure that a prima facie case of invidious discrimination under the Fourteenth Amendment was not made out.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U. S. 725 (1983)

    The Court affirmed a District Court ruling on a New Jersey congressional plan “that the population deviations in the plan were not functionally equal as a matter of law, and it found that the plan was not a good-faith effort to achieve population equality using the best available census data. It also correctly rejected appellants' attempt to justify the population deviations as not supported by the evidence.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986)

    The Court set forth three preconditions (compactness/numerousness, minority cohesion or bloc voting, and majority bloc voting) to establish a Section 2 violation of the Voting Rights Act and impair the capacity of a minority group "to participate equally in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice.".

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986) (Ind.)

    The Supreme Court held “that political gerrymandering cases are properly justiciable under the Equal Protection Clause. We also conclude, however, that a threshold showing of discriminatory vote dilution is required for a prima facie case of an equal protection violation.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Growe v. Emison, 507 U.S. 25 (1993)

    The Court held “that the Constitution leaves with the States primary responsibility for apportionment of their federal congressional and state legislative districts… We say once again what has been said on many occasions: reapportionment is primarily the duty and responsibility of the State through its legislature or other body, rather than of a federal court."

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Voinovich v. Quilter, 507 U.S. 146 (1993) (Ohio)

    The Supreme Court found that “Here, the District Court found that the maximum total deviation from ideal district size exceeded 10%. App. to Juris. Statement 148a. As a result, appellees established a prima facie case of discrimination, and appellants were required to justify the deviation. Appellants attempted to do just that, arguing that the deviation resulted from the State's constitutional policy in favor of preserving county boundaries. See Ohio Const., Arts. VII-XI. The District Court therefore was required to decide whether the "plan 'may reasonably be said to advance [the] rational state policy' " of preserving county boundaries "and, if so, 'whether the population disparities among the districts that have resulted from the pursuit of th[e] plan exceed constitutional limits.' " Brown, supra, at 843, 103 S.Ct., at 2696 (quoting Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315, 328, 93 S.Ct. 979, 986, 35 L.Ed.2d 320 (1973)). Rather than undertaking that inquiry, the District Court simply held that total deviations in excess of 10% cannot be justified by a policy of preserving the boundaries of political subdivisions. Our case law is directly to the contrary. See Mahan v. Howell, supra (upholding total deviation of over 16% where justified by the rational objective of preserving the integrity of political subdivision lines); see also Brown v. Thomson, supra. On remand, the District Court should consider whether the deviations from the ideal district size are justified using the analysis employed in Brown, supra, 462 U.S., at 843-846, 103 S.Ct., at 2696-2697, and Mahan, supra, 410 U.S., at 325-330, 93 S.Ct., at 985-987.

    The judgment of the District Court is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Shaw. V. Reno, - 509 U.S. 630 (1993)

    The Court opined that, “Racial classifications of any sort pose the risk of lasting harm to our society. They reinforce the belief, held by too many for too much of our history, that individuals should be judged by the color of their skin. Racial classifications with respect to voting carry particular dangers. Racial gerrymandering, even for remedial purposes, may balkanize us into competing racial factions; it threatens to carry us further from the goal of a political system in which race no longer matters—a goal that the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments embody, and to which the Nation continues to aspire. It is for these reasons that race-based districting by our state legislatures demands close judicial scrutiny.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Johnson v. DeGrandy, 512 U.S. 997 (1994)

    The Court held “minority voters form effective voting majorities in a number of House (and Senate) districts roughly proportional to their respective shares in the voting-age population. While such proportionality is not dispositive, it is a relevant fact in the totality of circumstances to be analyzed when determining whether minority voters have “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” ”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Miller v. Johnson - 515 U.S. 900 (1995)

    The Court opined that “The Voting Rights Act, and its grant of authority to the federal courts to uncover official efforts to abridge minorities' right to vote, has been of vital importance in eradicating invidious discrimination from the electoral process and enhancing the legitimacy of our political institutions. Only if our political system and our society cleanse themselves of that discrimination will all members of the polity share an equal opportunity to gain public office regardless of race. As a Nation we share both the obligation and the aspiration of working toward this end. The end is neither assured nor well served, however, by carving electorates into racial blocs…. It takes a shortsighted and unauthorized view of the Voting Rights Act to invoke that statute, which has played a decisive role in redressing some of our worst forms of discrimination, to demand the very racial stereotyping the Fourteenth Amendment forbids.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Bush v. Vera, 517 U.S. 952 (1996)

    Excerpt from the opinion sylabus:

    “Because the 1990 census revealed a population increase entitling Texas to three additional congressional seats, and in an attempt to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), the Texas Legislature promulgated a redistricting plan that, among other things, created District 30 as a new majority-African-American district in Dallas County and District 29 as a new majority-Hispanic district in Harris County, and reconfigured District 18, which is adjacent to District 29, as a majority-African-American district. After the Department of Justice precleared the plan under VRA§5, the plaintiffs, six Texas voters, filed this challenge alleging that 24 of the State's 30 congressional districts constitute racial gerrymanders in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The three-judge District Court held Districts 18, 29, and 30 unconstitutional.” The Governor of Texas, private intervenors, and the United States (as intervenor) appeal.

    Held: The judgment is affirmed.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • Hunt v. Cromartie 532U.S. 234 (2001)

    The Court, in reversing a District Court decision opined, “In a case such as this one where majority-minority districts (or the approximate equivalent) are at issue and where racial identification correlates highly with political affiliation, the party attacking the legislatively drawn boundaries must show at the least that the legislature could have achieved its legitimate political objectives in alternative ways that are comparably consistent with traditional districting principles. That party must also show that those districting alternatives would have brought about significantly greater racial balance.

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision [External PDF]
  • Vieth v. Jubelirer, 541 U.S. 267 (2004) (Pa.)

    A plurality of the Supreme Court opined, “Eighteen years of essentially pointless litigation have persuaded us that Bandemer is incapable of principled application. We would therefore overrule that case, and decline to adjudicate these political gerrymandering claims.” Justice Kennedy, “while agreeing that appellants' complaint must be dismissed, concluded that all possibility of judicial relief should not be foreclosed in cases such as this because a limited and precise rationale may yet be found to correct an established constitutional violation.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision 
  • League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, No. 05-204, 548 U.S. 399 (2006) (Texas)

    The Supreme Court said “influence districts” are not protected by Section 2. It said that, for the Hispanic minority in the case before the court, citizen voting age population was the proper measure for a district under Section 2. The Court also said the compactness precondition of Gingles refers not just to geographical compactness of the district, but also to compactness of the minority group.

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision [External PDF]
  • Bartlett v. Strickland, No. 07-689 (U.S. Mar. 9, 2009)

    The Supreme Court ruled that “Only when a geographically compact group of minority voters could form a majority in a single-member district has the first Gingles requirement been met.”

    Oyez Synopsis  Supreme Court Decision [External PDF]

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