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decided: June 7, 1971.



White, J., announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion, of the Court with respect to Parts I-vi, in which Burger, C. J., and Black, Stewart, and Blackmun, JJ., joined, and in which, as to Part VII, Burger, C. J., and Black and Blackmun, JJ., joined. Stewart, J., filed a statement joining in Parts I-vi and dissenting from Part VII, post, p. 163. Harlan, J., filed a separate opinion, post, p. 165. Douglas, J., filed an opinion dissenting in part and concurring in the result in part, in which Brennan and Marshall, JJ., joined, post, p. 171.

Author: White

[ 403 U.S. Page 127]

 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to the validity of the multi-member election district in Marion County, Indiana (Parts I-VI), together with an opinion (Part VII), in which THE CHIEF JUSTICE, MR. JUSTICE BLACK, and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN joined, on the propriety of ordering redistricting of the entire State of Indiana, and announced the judgment of the Court.

We have before us in this case the validity under the Equal Protection Clause of the statutes districting and apportioning the State of Indiana for its general assembly elections. The principal issue centers on those provisions constituting Marion County, which includes the city of Indianapolis, a multi-member district for electing state senators and representatives.


Indiana has a bicameral general assembly consisting of a house of representatives of 100 members and a senate of 50 members. Eight of the 31 senatorial districts and 25 of the 39 house districts are multi-member districts, that is, districts that are represented by two or more

[ 403 U.S. Page 128]

     legislators elected at large by the voters of the district.*fn1 Under the statutes here challenged, Marion County is a multi-member district electing eight senators and 15 members of the house.

On January 9, 1969, six residents of Indiana, five of whom were residents of Marion County, filed a suit described by them as "attacking the constitutionality of two statutes of the State of Indiana which provide for multi-member districting at large of General Assembly seats in Marion County, Indiana . . . ."*fn2 Plaintiffs*fn3 Chavis, Ramsey, and Bryant alleged that the two statutes invidiously diluted the force and effect of the vote of

[ 403 U.S. Page 129]

     Negroes and poor persons living within certain Marion County census tracts constituting what was termed "the ghetto area." Residents of the area were alleged to have particular demographic characteristics rendering them cognizable as a minority interest group with distinctive interests in specific areas of the substantive law. With single-member districting, it was said, the ghetto area would elect three members of the house and one senator, whereas under the present districting voters in the area "have almost no political force or control over legislators because the effect of their vote is cancelled out by other contrary interest groups" in Marion County. The mechanism of political party organization and the influence of party chairmen in nominating candidates were additional factors alleged to frustrate the exercise of power by residents of the ghetto area.

Plaintiff Walker, a Negro resident of Lake County, also a multi-member district but a smaller one, alleged an invidious discrimination against Lake County Negroes because Marion County Negroes, although no greater in number than Lake County Negroes, had the opportunity to influence the election of more legislators than Lake County Negroes.*fn4 The claim was that Marion County was one-third larger in population and thus had approximately one-third more assembly seats than Lake County, but that voter influence does not vary inversely with population and that permitting Marion County voters to elect 23 assemblymen at large gave them a disproportionate advantage over voters in Lake County.*fn5 The

[ 403 U.S. Page 130]

     two remaining plaintiffs presented claims not at issue here.*fn6

A three-judge court convened and tried the case on June 17 and 18, 1969. Both documentary evidence and oral testimony were taken concerning the composition and characteristics of the alleged ghetto area, the manner in which legislative candidates were chosen and their residence and tenure, and the performance of Marion County's delegation in the Indiana general assembly.*fn7

[ 403 U.S. Page 131]

     The three-judge court filed its opinion containing its findings and conclusions on July 28, 1969, holding for plaintiffs. Chavis v. Whitcomb, 305 F.Supp. 1364 (SD Ind. 1969). See also 305 F.Supp. 1359 (1969) (pre-trial orders) and 307 F.Supp. 1362 (1969) (statewide reapportionment plan and implementing order). In sum, it concluded that Marion County's multi-member district must be disestablished and, because of population disparities not directly related to the phenomena alleged in the complaint, the entire State must be redistricted. More particularly, it first determined that a racial minority group inhabited an identifiable ghetto area in Indianapolis.*fn8 That area, located in the northern half of Center Township and termed the "Center Township ghetto," comprised 28 contiguous census tracts and parts of four others.*fn9 The area contained a 1967 population

[ 403 U.S. Page 132]

     of 97,000 nonwhites, over 99% of whom were Negro, and 35,000 whites. The court proceeded to compare six of these tracts, representative of the area, with tract 211, a predominantly white, relatively wealthy suburban census tract in Washington Township contiguous to the northwest corner of the court's ghetto area and with tract 220, also in Washington Township, a contiguous tract inhabited by middle class Negroes. Strong differences were found in terms of housing conditions, income and educational levels, rates of unemployment, juvenile crime, and welfare assistance. The contrasting characteristics between the court's ghetto area and its inhabitants on the one hand and tracts 211 and 220 on the other indicated the ghetto's "compelling interests in such legislative areas as urban renewal and rehabilitation, health care, employment training and opportunities, welfare, and relief of the poor, law enforcement, quality of education, and anti-discrimination measures." 305 F.Supp., at 1380. These interests were in addition to those the ghetto shared with the rest of the county, such as metropolitan transportation, flood control, sewage disposal, and education.

The court then turned to evidence showing the residences of Marion County's representatives and senators

[ 403 U.S. Page 133]

     in each of the five general assemblies elected during the period 1960 through 1968.*fn10 Excluding tract 220, the middle class Negro district, Washington Township, the relatively wealthy suburban area in which tract 211 was located, with an average of 13.98% of Marion County's population, was the residence of 47.52% of its senators and 34.33% of its representatives. The court's Center Township ghetto area, with 17.8% of the population, had 4.75% of the senators and 5.97% of the representatives. The nonghetto area of Center Township, with 23.32% of the population, had done little better. Also, tract 220 alone, the middle class Negro district, had only 0.66% of the county's population but had been the residence of more representatives than had the ghetto area. The ghetto area had been represented in the senate only once -- in 1964 by one senator -- and the house three times -- with one representative in 1962 and 1964 and by two representatives in the 1968 general assembly. The court found the "Negro Center Township Ghetto population" to be sufficiently large to elect two representatives and one senator if the ghetto tracts "were specific single-member legislative districts" in Marion County. 305 F.Supp., at 1385. From these data the court found gross inequity of representation, as determined by residence of legislators, between Washington Township and tract 220 on the one hand and Center Township and the Center Township ghetto area on the other.

The court also characterized Marion County's general assembly delegation as tending to coalesce and take common positions on proposed legislation. This was "largely the result of election at large from a common constituency, and obviates representation of a substantial, though minority, interest group within that common

[ 403 U.S. Page 134]

     constituency." Ibid. Related findings were that, as a rule, a candidate could not be elected in Marion County unless his party carried the election;*fn11 county political organizations had substantial influence on the selection and election of assembly candidates (an influence that would be diminished by single-member districting), as well as upon the actions of the county's delegation in the assembly; and that at-large elections made it difficult for the conscientious voter to make a rational selection.

The court's conclusions of law on the merits may be summarized as follows:

1. There exists within Marion County an identifiable racial element, "the Negro residents of the Center Township Ghetto," with special interests in various areas of

[ 403 U.S. Page 135]

     substantive law, diverging significantly from interests of nonresidents of the ghetto.*fn12

2. The voting strength of this racial group has been minimized by Marion County's multi-member senate and house district because of the strong control exercised by political parties over the selection of candidates, the inability of the Negro voters to assure themselves the opportunity to vote for prospective legislators of their choice and the absence of any particular legislators who were accountable for their legislative record to Negro voters.

3. Party control of nominations, the inability of voters to know the candidate and the responsibility of legislators to their party and the county at large make it difficult for any legislator to diverge from the majority of his delegation and to be an effective representative of minority ghetto interests.

4. Although each legislator in Marion County is arguably responsible to all the voters, including those in the ghetto, "partial responsiveness of all legislators is [not] . . . equal [to] total responsiveness and the informed concern of a few specific legislators."*fn13

[ 403 U.S. Page 1365]

     . The apportionment statutes of Indiana as they relate to Marion County operate to minimize and cancel out the voting strength of a minority racial group, namely Negroes residing in the Center Township ghetto, and to deprive them of the equal protection of the laws.

6. As a legislative district, Marion County is large as compared with the total number of legislators, it is not subdistricted to insure distribution of the legislators over the county and comprises a multi-member district for both the house and the senate. (See Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 88 (1966).)

7. To redistrict Marion County alone would leave impermissible variations between Marion County districts and other districts in the State. Statewide redistricting was required, and it could not await the 1970 census figures estimated to be available within a year.

8. It may not be possible for the Indiana general assembly to comply with the state constitutional requirement prohibiting crossing or dividing counties for senatorial apportionment*fn14 and still meet the requirements of the Equal Protection Clause adumbrated in recent cases.*fn15

9. Plaintiff Walker's claim as a Negro voter resident of Lake County that he was discriminated against because Lake County Negroes could vote for only 16 assemblymen while Marion County Negroes could vote for 23 was deemed untenable. In his second capacity, as a general voter in Lake County, Walker "probably has received less effective representation" than Marion County voters because "he votes for fewer legislators and, therefore, has fewer legislators to speak for him," and, since

[ 403 U.S. Page 137]

     in theory voting power in multi-member districts does not vary inversely to the number of voters, Marion County voters had greater opportunity to cast tie-breaking or "critical" votes. But the court declined to hold that the latter ground had been proved, absent more evidence concerning Lake County.*fn16 In this respect consideration of Walker's claim was limited to that to be given the uniform districting principle in reapportioning the Indiana general assembly.*fn17

Turning to the proper remedy, the court found redistricting of Marion County essential. Also, although recognizing the complaint was directed only to Marion County, the court thought it must act on the evidence indicating that the entire State required reapportionment.*fn18 Judgment was withheld in all respects, however, to give the State until October 1, 1969, to enact legislation

[ 403 U.S. Page 138]

     remedying the improper districting and malapportionment found to exist by the court.*fn19 In so doing the court thought the State "might wish to give consideration to certain principles of legislative apportionment brought out at the trial in these proceedings." Id., at 1391. First, the court eschewed any indication that Negroes living in the ghetto were entitled to any certain number of legislators -- districts should be drawn with an eye that is color blind, and sophisticated gerrymandering would not be countenanced. Second, the legislature was advised to keep in mind the theoretical advantage inhering in voters in multi-member districts, that is, their theoretical opportunity to cast more deciding votes in any legislative election. Referring to the testimony that bloc-voting, multi-member delegations have disproportionately more power than single-member districts, the court thought that "the testimony has application here." Also, "as each member of the bloc delegation is responsible to the voter majority who elected the whole, each Marion County voter has a greater voice in the legislature, having more legislators to speak for him than does a comparable voter" in a single-member district. Single-member districts, the court thought, would equalize voting power among the districts as well as avoiding diluting political or racial groups located in multi-member districts. The court therefore recommended that the general assembly give consideration to the uniform district principle in making its apportionment.*fn20

[ 403 U.S. Page 139]

     On October 15, the court judicially noticed that the Indiana general assembly had not been called to redistrict and reapportion the State. Following further hearings and examination of various plans submitted by the parties, the court drafted and adopted a plan based on the 1960 census figures. With respect to Marion County, the court followed plaintiffs' suggested scheme, which was said to protect "the legally cognizable racial minority group against dilution of its voting strength." 307 F.Supp. 1362, 1365 (SD Ind. 1969). Single-member districts were employed throughout the State, county lines were crossed where necessary, judicial notice was taken of the location of the nonwhite population in establishing district lines in metropolitan areas of the State and the court's plan expressly aimed at giving "recognition to the cognizable racial minority group whose grievance lead [ sic ] to this litigation." Id., at 1366.

The court enjoined state officials from conducting any elections under the existing apportionment statutes and ordered that the 1970 elections be held in accordance with the plan prepared by the court. Jurisdiction was retained to pass upon any future claims of unconstitutionality with respect to any future legislative apportionments adopted by the State.*fn21

[ 403 U.S. Page 140]

     Appeal was taken following the final judgment by the three-judge court, we noted probable jurisdiction, 397 U.S. 984 (1970), and the State's motion for stay of judgment was granted pending our final action on this case, 396 U.S. 1055 (1970), thus permitting the 1970 elections to be held under the existing apportionment statutes declared unconstitutional by the District Court. On June 1, 1971, we were advised by the parties that the Indiana Legislature had passed, and the Governor had signed, new apportionment legislation soon to become effective for the 1972 elections and that the new legislation provides for single-member house and senate districts throughout the State, including Marion County.


With the 1970 elections long past and the appearance of new legislation abolishing multi-member districts in Indiana, the issue of mootness emerges. Neither party deems the case mooted by recent events. Appellees, plaintiffs below, urge that if the appeal is dismissed as moot and the judgment of the District Court is vacated, as is our practice in such cases, there would be no outstanding judgment invalidating the Marion County multi-member district and that the new apportionment legislation would be in conflict with the state constitutional provision forbidding the division of Marion County for the purpose of electing senators. If the new senatorial districts were invalidated in the state courts in this respect, it is argued that the issue involved in the present litigation would simply reappear for decision.

[ 403 U.S. Page 141]

     The attorney general for the State of Indiana, for the appellant, taking a somewhat different tack, urges that the issue of the Marion County multi-member district is not moot since the District Court has retained jurisdiction to pass on the legality of subsequent apportionment statutes for the purpose, among others, of determining whether the alleged discrimination against a cognizable minority group has been remedied, an issue that would not arise if the District Court erred in invalidating multi-member districts in Indiana.

We agree that the case is not moot and that the central issues before us must be decided. We do not, however, pass upon the details of the plan adopted by the District Court, since that plan in any event would have required revision in light of the 1970 census figures.


The line of cases from Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963), and Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), to Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526 (1969), and Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542 (1969), recognizes that "representative government is in essence self-government through the medium of elected representatives of the people, and each and every citizen has an inalienable right to full and effective participation in the political processes of his State's legislative bodies." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S., at 565. Since most citizens find it possible to participate only as qualified voters in electing their representatives, "full and effective participation by all citizens in state government requires, therefore, that each citizen have an equally effective voice in the election of members of his state legislature." Ibid. Hence, apportionment schemes "which give the same number of representatives to unequal numbers of constituents," 377 U.S., at 563, unconstitutionally dilute the value of the votes in the larger districts. And hence the requirement that "the seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature

[ 403 U.S. Page 142]

     must be apportioned on a population basis." 377 U.S., at 568.

The question of the constitutional validity of multi-member districts has been pressed in this Court since the first of the modern reapportionment cases. These questions have focused not on population-based apportionment but on the quality of representation afforded by the multi-member district as compared with single-member districts. In Lucas v. Colorado General Assembly, 377 U.S. 713 (1964), decided with Reynolds v. Sims, we noted certain undesirable features of the multi-member district but expressly withheld any intimation "that apportionment schemes which provide for the at-large election of a number of legislators from a county, or any political subdivision, are constitutionally defective." 377 U.S., at 731 n. 21. Subsequently, when the validity of the multi-member district, as such, was squarely presented, we held that such a district is not per se illegal under the Equal Protection Clause. Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433 (1965); Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73 (1966); Kilgarlin v. Hill, 386 U.S. 120 (1967). See also Burnette v. Davis, 382 U.S. 42 (1965); Harrison v. Schaefer, 383 U.S. 269 (1966).*fn22 That voters in multi-member

[ 403 U.S. Page 143]

     districts vote for and are represented by more legislators than voters in single-member districts has so far not demonstrated an invidious discrimination against the latter. But we have deemed the validity of multi-member district systems justiciable, recognizing also that they may be subject to challenge where the circumstances of a particular case may "operate to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political elements of the voting population." Fortson, 379 U.S., at 439, and Burns, 384 U.S., at 88. Such a tendency, we have said, is enhanced when the district is large and elects a substantial proportion of the seats in either house of a bicameral legislature, if it is multi-member for both

[ 403 U.S. Page 144]

     houses of the legislature or if it lacks provision for at-large candidates running from particular geographical subdistricts, as in Fortson. Burns, 384 U.S., at 88. But we have insisted that the challenger carry the burden of proving that multi-member districts unconstitutionally operate to dilute or cancel the voting strength of racial or political elements. We have not yet sustained such an attack.


Plaintiffs level two quite distinct challenges to the Marion County district. The first charge is that any multi-member district bestows on its voters several unconstitutional advantages over voters in single-member districts or smaller multi-member districts. The other allegation is that the Marion County district, on the record of this case, illegally minimizes and cancels out the voting power of a cognizable racial minority in Marion County. The District Court sustained the latter claim and considered the former sufficiently persuasive to be a substantial factor in prescribing uniform, single-member districts as the basic scheme of the court's own plan. See 307 F.Supp., at 1366.

In asserting discrimination against voters outside Marion County, plaintiffs recognize that Fortson, Burns, and Kilgarlin proceeded on the assumption that the dilution of voting power suffered by a voter who is placed in a district 10 times the population of another is cured by allocating 10 legislators to the larger district instead of the one assigned to the smaller district. Plaintiffs challenge this assumption at both the voter and legislator level. They demonstrate mathematically that in theory voting power does not vary inversely with the size of the district and that to increase legislative seats in proportion to increased population gives undue voting power to the voter in the multi-member district since he has more chances to determine election outcomes than

[ 403 U.S. Page 145]

     does the voter in the single-member district. This consequence obtains wholly aside from the quality or effectiveness of representation later furnished by the successful candidates. The District Court did not quarrel with plaintiffs' mathematics, nor do we. But like the District Court we note that the position remains a theoretical one*fn23 and, as plaintiffs' witness conceded, knowingly

[ 403 U.S. Page 146]

     avoids and does "not take into account any political or other factors which might affect the actual voting power of the residents, which might include party affiliation, race, previous voting characteristics or any other factors which go into the entire political voting situation."*fn24 The real-life impact of multi-member districts on individual voting power has not been sufficiently demonstrated, at least on this record, to warrant departure from prior cases.

The District Court was more impressed with the other branch of the claim that multi-member districts inherently discriminate against other districts. This was the assertion that whatever the individual voting power of Marion County voters in choosing legislators may be, they nevertheless have more effective representation in the Indiana general assembly for two reasons. First, each voter is represented by more legislators and therefore, in theory at least, has more chances to influence critical legislative votes. Second, since multi-member delegations are elected at large and represent the voters of the entire district, they tend to vote as a bloc, which is tantamount to the district having one representative with several votes.*fn25 The District Court did not squarely

[ 403 U.S. Page 147]

     sustain this position,*fn26 but it appears to have found it sufficiently persuasive to have suggested uniform districting to the Indiana Legislature and to have eliminated multi-member districts in the court's own plan redistricting the State. See 307 F.Supp., at 1368-1383.

We are not ready, however, to agree that multi-member districts, wherever they exist, overrepresent their voters as compared with voters in single-member districts, even if the multi-member delegation tends to bloc voting. The theory that plural representation itself unduly enhances a district's power and the influence of its voters remains to be demonstrated in practice and in the day-to-day operation of the legislature. Neither the findings of the trial court nor the record before us sustains it, even where bloc voting is posited.

In fashioning relief, the three-judge court appeared to embrace the idea that each member of a bloc-voting delegation has more influence than legislators from a single-member district. But its findings of fact fail to deal with the actual influence of Marion County's delegation in the Indiana Legislature. Nor did plaintiffs' evidence make such a showing. That bloc voting tended to occur is sustained by the record, and defendants' own witness thought it was advantageous for Marion County's delegation to stick together. But nothing demonstrates that senators and representatives from Marion County counted for more in the legislature than members from single-member districts or from smaller multi-member districts. Nor is there anything in the court's findings indicating that what might be true of Marion County is also true of other multi-member districts in Indiana or is true of

[ 403 U.S. Page 148]

     multi-member districts generally. Moreover, Marion County would have no less advantage, if advantage there is, if it elected from individual districts and the elected representatives demonstrated the same bloc-voting tendency, which may also develop among legislators representing single-member districts widely scattered throughout the State.*fn27 Of course it is advantageous to start with more than one vote for a bill. But nothing before us shows or suggests that any legislative skirmish affecting the State of Indiana or Marion County in particular would have come out differently had Marion County been subdistricted and its delegation elected from single-member districts.

Rather than squarely finding unacceptable discrimination against out-state voters in favor of Marion County voters, the trial court struck down Marion County's multi-member district because it found the scheme worked invidiously against a specific segment of the county's voters as compared with others. The court identified an area of the city as a ghetto, found it predominantly inhabited by poor Negroes with distinctive substantive-law interests and thought this group unconstitutionally underrepresented because the proportion of legislators with residences in the ghetto elected from 1960 to 1968 was less than the ghetto's proportion of the population, less than the proportion of legislators elected from Washington Township, a less populous district, and less than the ghetto would likely have elected had the

[ 403 U.S. Page 149]

     county consisted of single-member districts.*fn28 We find major deficiencies in this approach.

First, it needs no emphasis here that the Civil War Amendments were designed to protect the civil rights of Negroes and that the courts have been vigilant in scrutinizing schemes allegedly conceived or operated as purposeful devices to further racial discrimination. There has been no hesitation in striking down those contrivances that can fairly be said to infringe on Fourteenth Amendment rights. Sims v. Baggett, 247 F.Supp. 96 (MD Ala. 1965); Smith v. Paris, 257 F.Supp. 901 (MD Ala. 1966), aff'd, 386 F.2d 979 (CA5 1967); and see Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960). See also Allen v. State Board of Elections, 393 U.S. 544 (1969). But there is no suggestion here that Marion County's multi-member district, or similar districts throughout the State, were conceived or operated as purposeful devices to further racial or economic discrimination. As plaintiffs concede, "there was no basis for asserting that the legislative districts in Indiana were designed to dilute the vote of minorities." Brief of Appellees (Plaintiffs) 28-29. Accordingly, the circumstances here lie outside the reach of decisions such as Sims v. Baggett, supra.

Nor does the fact that the number of ghetto residents who were legislators was not in proportion to ghetto population satisfactorily prove invidious discrimination absent evidence and findings that ghetto residents had less opportunity than did other Marion County residents to participate in the political processes and to elect legislators of their choice. We have discovered nothing in the record or in the court's findings indicating that poor Negroes were not allowed to register or vote, to choose the political party they desired to support, to participate in its affairs or to be equally represented on those occasions when legislative candidates were chosen. Nor did

[ 403 U.S. Page 150]

     the evidence purport to show or the court find that inhabitants of the ghetto were regularly excluded from the slates of both major parties, thus denying them the chance of occupying legislative seats.*fn29 It appears reasonably clear that the Republican Party won four of the five elections from 1960 to 1968, that Center Township ghetto voted heavily Democratic and that ghetto votes were critical to Democratic Party success. Although we cannot be sure of the facts since the court ignored the question, it seems unlikely that the Democratic Party could afford to overlook the ghetto in slating its candidates.*fn30 Clearly, in 1964 -- the one election that the

[ 403 U.S. Page 151]

     Democrats won -- the party slated and elected one senator and one representative from Center Township ghetto as well as one senator and four representatives from other

[ 403 U.S. Page 152]

     parts of Center Township and two representatives from census tract 220, which was within the ghetto area described by plaintiff.*fn31 Nor is there any indication that the party failed to slate candidates satisfactory to the ghetto in other years. Absent evidence or findings we are not sure, but it seems reasonable to infer that had the Democrats won all of the elections or even most of them, the ghetto would have had no justifiable complaints about representation. The fact is, however, that four of the five elections were won by Republicans, which was not the party of the ghetto and which would not always slate ghetto candidates -- although in 1962 it nominated and elected one representative and in 1968 two representatives from that area.*fn32

[ 403 U.S. Page 153]

     If this is the proper view of this case, the failure of the ghetto to have legislative seats in proportion to its population emerges more as a function of losing elections than of built-in bias against poor Negroes. The voting power of ghetto residents may have been "cancelled out" as the District Court held, but this seems a mere euphemism for political defeat at the polls.

On the record before us plaintiffs' position comes to this: that although they have equal opportunity to participate in and influence the selection of candidates and legislators, and although the ghetto votes predominantly Democratic and that party slates candidates satisfactory to the ghetto, invidious discrimination nevertheless results when the ghetto, along with all other Democrats, suffers the disaster of losing too many elections. But typical American legislative elections are district-oriented, head-on races between candidates of two or more parties. As our system has it, one candidate wins, the others lose. Arguably the losing candidates' supporters are without representation since the men they voted for have been defeated; arguably they have been denied equal protection of the laws since they have no legislative voice of their own. This is true of both single-member and multi-member districts. But we have not yet deemed it a denial of equal protection to deny legislative seats to losing candidates, even in those so-called "safe" districts where the same party wins year after year.

Plainly, the District Court saw nothing unlawful about the impact of typical single-member district elections. The court's own plan created districts giving both Republicans and Democrats several predictably safe general assembly seats, with political, racial or economic minorities in those districts being "unrepresented" year after year. But similar consequences flowing from Marion County multi-member district elections were viewed differently. Conceding that all Marion County voters could fairly be said to be represented by the entire delegation,

[ 403 U.S. Page 154]

     just as is each voter in a single-member district by the winning candidate, the District Court thought the ghetto voters' claim to the partial allegiance of eight senators and 15 representatives was not equivalent to the undivided allegiance of one senator and two representatives; nor was the ghetto voters' chance of influencing the election of an entire slate as significant as the guarantee of one ghetto senator and two ghetto representatives.*fn33 As the trial court saw it, ghetto voters could not be adequately and equally represented unless some of Marion County's general assembly seats were reserved for ghetto residents serving the interests of the ghetto majority. But are poor Negroes of the ghetto any more underrepresented than poor ghetto whites who also voted Democratic and lost, or any more discriminated against than other interest groups or voters in Marion County with allegiance to the Democratic Party, or, conversely, any less represented than Republican areas or voters in years of Republican defeat? We think not. The mere fact that one interest group or another concerned with the outcome of Marion County elections has found itself

[ 403 U.S. Page 155]

     outvoted and without legislative seats of its own provides no basis for invoking constitutional remedies where, as here, there is no indication that this segment of the population is being denied access to the political system.

There is another gap in the trial court's reasoning. As noted by the court, the interest of ghetto residents in certain issues did not measurably differ from that of other voters. Presumably in these respects Marion County's assemblymen were satisfactorily representative of the ghetto. As to other matters, ghetto residents had unique interests not necessarily shared by others in the community and on these issues the ghetto residents were invidiously underrepresented absent their own legislative voice to further their own policy views.

Part of the difficulty with this conclusion is that the findings failed to support it. Plaintiffs' evidence purported to show disregard for the ghetto's distinctive interests; defendants claimed quite the contrary. We see nothing in the findings of the District Court indicating recurring poor performance by Marion County's delegation with respect to Center Township ghetto, nothing to show what the ghetto's interests were in particular legislative situations and nothing to indicate that the outcome would have been any different if the 23 assemblymen had been chosen from single-member districts. Moreover, even assuming bloc voting by the delegation contrary to the wishes of the ghetto majority, it would not follow that the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated unless it is invidiously discriminatory for a county to elect its delegation by majority vote based on party or candidate platforms and so to some extent predetermine legislative votes on particular issues. Such tendencies are inherent in government by elected representatives; and surely elections in single-member districts visit precisely the same consequences on the supporters of losing candidates whose views are rejected at the polls.

[ 403 U.S. Page 156]


The District Court's holding, although on the facts of this case limited to guaranteeing one racial group representation, is not easily contained. It is expressive of the more general proposition that any group with distinctive interests must be represented in legislative halls if it is numerous enough to command at least one seat and represents a majority living in an area sufficiently compact to constitute a single-member district.*fn34 This approach would make it difficult to reject claims of Democrats, Republicans, or members of any political organization in Marion County who live in what would be safe districts in a single-member district system but who in one year or another, or year after year, are submerged in a one-sided multi-member district vote.*fn35 There are also union oriented workers, the university community, religious or ethnic groups occupying identifiable areas of our heterogeneous cities and urban areas. Indeed, it would be difficult for a great many, if not most, multi-member districts to survive analysis under the District Court's view unless combined with some voting arrangement such as proportional representation or cumulative voting aimed

[ 403 U.S. Page 157]

     at providing representation for minority parties or interests.*fn36 At the very least, affirmance of the District Court would spawn endless litigation concerning the multimember district systems now widely employed in this country.*fn37

We are not insensitive to the objections long voiced to multi-member district plans.*fn38 Although not as prevalent as they were in our early history, they have been

[ 403 U.S. Page 158]

     with us since colonial times and were much in evidence both before and after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn39 Criticism is rooted in their winner-take-all

[ 403 U.S. Page 159]

     aspects, their tendency to submerge minorities and to overrepresent the winning party as compared with the party's statewide electoral position, a general preference for legislatures reflecting community interests as closely as possible and disenchantment with political parties and elections as devices to settle policy differences between contending interests. The chance of winning or significantly influencing intraparty fights and issue-oriented elections has seemed to some inadequate protection to minorities, political, racial, or economic; rather, their voice, it is said, should also be heard in the legislative forum where public policy is finally fashioned. In our view, however, experience and insight have not yet demonstrated

[ 403 U.S. Page 160]

     that multi-member districts are inherently invidious and violative of the Fourteenth Amendment. Surely the findings of the District Court do not demonstrate it. Moreover, if the problems of multi-member districts are unbearable or even unconstitutional it is not at all clear that the remedy is a single-member district system with its lines carefully drawn to ensure representation to sizable racial, ethnic, economic, or religious groups and with its own capacity for overrepresenting and underrepresenting parties and interests and even for permitting a minority of the voters to control the legislature and government of a State. The short of it is that we are unprepared to hold that district-based elections decided by plurality vote are unconstitutional in either single- or multi-member districts simply because the supporters of losing candidates have no legislative seats assigned to them. As presently advised we hold that the District Court misconceived the Equal Protection Clause in applying it to invalidate the Marion County multi-member district.


Even if the District Court was correct in finding unconstitutional discrimination against poor inhabitants of the ghetto, it did not explain why it was constitutionally compelled to disestablish the entire county district and to intrude upon state policy any more than necessary to ensure representation of ghetto interests. The court entered judgment without expressly putting aside on supportable grounds the alternative of creating single-member districts in the ghetto and leaving the district otherwise intact, as well as the possibility that the Fourteenth Amendment could be satisfied by a simple requirement that some of the at-large candidates each year must reside in the ghetto. Cf. Fortson v. Dorsey, supra.

We are likewise at a loss to understand how on the court's own findings of fact and conclusions of law it

[ 403 U.S. Page 161]

     was justified in eliminating every multi-member district in the State of Indiana. It did not forthrightly sustain the theory that multi-member districts always over-represent their voters to the invidious detriment of single-member residents. Nor did it examine any multi-member district aside from Marion County for possible intradistrict discrimination.

The remedial powers of an equity court must be adequate to the task, but they are not unlimited. Here the District Court erred in so broadly brushing aside state apportionment policy without solid constitutional or equitable grounds for doing so.


At the same time, however, we reject defendant's suggestion that the court was wrong in ordering statewide reapportionment. After determining that Marion County required reapportionment, the court concluded that "it becomes clear beyond question that the evidence adduced in this case and the additional apportionment requirements set forth by the Supreme Court call for a redistricting of the entire state as to both houses of the General Assembly." 305 F.Supp., at 1391. This evidence, based on 1960 census figures, showed that Senate district 20, with one senator for 80,496, was overrepresented by 13.68% while district 5, with one senator for 106,790, was underrepresented by 14.52%, for a total variance of 28.20% and a ratio between the largest and smallest districts of 1.327 to 1. The house figures were similar. The variation ranged from one representative for 41,449 in district 39 to one for 53,003 in district 35, for a variance of 24.78% and a ratio of 1.279 to 1.*fn40 These

[ 403 U.S. Page 162]

     variations were in excess of, or very nearly equal to, the variation of 25.65% and the ratio of 1.30 to 1 which we held excessive for state legislatures*fn41 in Swann v. Adams, 385 U.S. 440 (1967). Even with this convincing showing of malapportionment, the court refrained from action in order to allow the Indiana Legislature to call a special session for the purpose of redistricting. When the legislature ignored the court's findings and suggestion, it was not improper for the court to order statewide redistricting, as district courts have done from the time Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), and its companion cases were decided.*fn42 And see Maryland Committee for Fair Representation v. Tawes, 377 U.S. 656, 673 (1964).

Nor can we accept defendant's argument that the statutory plan was beyond attack because the District Court had held in 1965 that at that time the plan met the "substantial equality" test of Reynolds. Stout v. Bottorff,

[ 403 U.S. Page 163249]

     F.Supp. 488 (SD Ind. 1965). Defendant does not argue that the 1969 variances were acceptable under the Reynolds test, which has been considerably refined since that decision, see Swann v. Adams, supra. Rather, he contends that because Reynolds indicated that decennial reapportionment would be a "rational approach" to the problem, a State cannot be compelled to reapportion itself more than once in a 10-year period. Such a reading misconstrues the thrust of Reynolds in this respect. Decennial reapportionment was suggested as a presumptively rational method to avoid "daily, monthly, annual or biennial reapportionment" as population shifted throughout the State.*fn43 Here, the District Court did not order reapportionment as a result of population shifts since the 1965 Stout decision, but only because the disparities among districts which were thought to be permissible at the time of that decision had been shown by intervening decisions of this Court to be excessive.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the District Court and remand the case to that court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

[For Appendix to opinion of the Court, see post, p. 164.]

MR. JUSTICE STEWART joins in Part I through VI of the Court's opinion, holding that the multi-member districting scheme here in issue did not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. He dissents from Part VII of the opinion for the reasons expressed in his dissenting opinion in Lucas v. Colorado General Assembly, 377 U.S. 713, 744.

[ 403 U.S. Page 164]

     The following table was included in the trial court's findings: [See Table in Original Source]

305 F.Supp., at 1383.

[ 403 U.S. Page 165]

     Separate opinion of MR. JUSTICE HARLAN.

Earlier this Term I remarked on "the evident malaise among the members of the Court" with prior decisions in the field of voter qualifications and reapportionment. Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 218 (1970) (separate opinion of this writer).

Today's opinions in this and two other voting cases now decided1[a] confirm that diagnosis.


Past decisions have held that districting in local governmental units must approach equality of voter population "as far as is practicable," Hadley v. Junior College District, 397 U.S. 50, 56 (1970), and that the "as nearly as is practicable" standard of Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1964), for congressional districting forbade a maximum variation of 6%. Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U.S. 526 (1969). Today the Court sustains a local governmental apportionment scheme with a 12% variation. Abate v. Mundt, post, p. 182.

Other past decisions have suggested that multi-member constituencies would be unconstitutional if they could be shown "under the circumstances of a particular case . . . to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political elements of the voting population." Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 439 (1965); Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 88 (1966). Today the Court holds that a three-judge District Court, which struck down an apportionment scheme for just this reason, "misconceived the Equal Protection Clause." Ante, at 160.

Prior opinions stated that "once the class of voters is chosen and their qualifications specified, we see no constitutional way by which equality of voting power may be evaded." Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368, 381 (1963); Hadley v. Junior College District, 397 U.S. 50, 59

[ 403 U.S. Page 166]

     (1970). Today the Court sustains a provision that gives opponents of school bond issues half again the voting power of proponents. Gordon v. Lance, ante, p. 1.


The Court justifies the wondrous results in these cases by relying on different combinations of factors. Abate v. Mundt relies on the need for flexibility in local governmental arrangements, the interest in preserving the integrity of political subdivisions, and the longstanding tradition behind New York's practice in the latter respect. This case finds elementary probability theory too simplistic as a guide to resolution of what is essentially a practical question of political power; the opinion relies on the long history of multi-member districts in this country and the fear that "affirmance of the District Court would spawn endless litigation." Ante, at 157. Gordon v. Lance relies heavily on the "federal analogy" and the prevalence of similar anti-majoritarian elements in the constitutions of the several States.

To my mind the relevance of such considerations as the foregoing is undeniable and their cumulative effect is unanswerable. I can only marvel, therefore, that they were dismissed, singly and in combination, in a line of cases which began with Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368 (1963), and ended with Hadley v. Junior College District, 397 U.S. 50 (1970).

That line of cases can best be understood, I think, as reflections of deep personal commitments by some members of the Court to the principles of pure majoritarian democracy. This majoritarian strain and its non-constitutional sources are most clearly revealed in Gray v. Sanders, supra, at 381, where my Brother DOUGLAS, speaking for the Court, said: "The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence,

[ 403 U.S. Page 167]

     to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing -- one person, one vote." If this philosophy of majoritarianism had been given its head, it would have led to different results in each of the cases decided today, for it is in the very nature of the principle that it regards majority rule as an imperative of social organization, not subject to compromise in furtherance of merely political ends. It is a philosophy which ignores or overcomes the fact that the scheme of the Constitution is one not of majoritarian democracy, but of federal republics, with equality of representation a value subordinate to many others, as both the body of the Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment itself show on their face. See generally Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 297-324 (1962) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting).


If majoritarianism is to be rejected as a rule of decision, as the Court implicitly rejects it today, then an alternative principle must be supplied if this earlier line of cases just referred to is still to be regarded as good law. The reapportionment opinions of this Court provide little help. They speak in conclusory terms of "debasement" or "dilution" of the "voting power" or "representation" of citizens without explanation of what these concepts are. The answers are hardly apparent, for as the Court observes today:

"As our system has it, one candidate wins, the others lose. Arguably the losing candidates' supporters are without representation since the men they voted for have been defeated; arguably they have been denied equal protection of the laws since they have no legislative voice of their own. . . . But we have not yet deemed it a denial of equal protection to deny legislative seats to losing candidates,

[ 403 U.S. Page 168]

     even in those so-called 'safe' districts where the same party wins year after year." Ante, at 153.

A coherent and realistic notion of what is meant by "voting power" might have restrained some of the extreme lengths to which this Court has gone in pursuit of the will-o'-the-wisp of "one man, one vote."

An interesting illustration of the light which a not implausible definition of "voting power" can shed on reapportionment doctrine is provided by the theoretical model created by Professor Banzhaf, to which the Court refers, ante, at 144-146.2[a] This model uses as a measure of voting power the probability that a given voter will cast a tie-breaking ballot in an election. Two further assumptions are made: first, that the voting habits of all members of the electorate are alike; and second, that each voter is equally likely to vote for either candidate before him. On these assumptions, and taking the voting population in Marion County as roughly 300,000, it can be shown that the probability of an individual voter's casting a decisive vote in a given election is approximately .00146. This provides a standard to which "voting power" of residents in other districts may be compared. See generally Banzhaf, Multi-Member Electoral Districts -- Do They Violate the "One Man, One Vote" Principle, 75 Yale L. J. 1309 (1966).

[ 403 U.S. Page 169]

     However, Professor Banzhaf's model also reveals that minor variations in assumptions can lead to major variations in results. For instance, if the temper of the electorate changes by one-half of one percent,3[a] each individual's voting power is reduced by a factor of approximately 1,000,000. Or if a few of the 300,000 voters are committed -- say 15,000 to candidate A and 10,000 to candidate B4[a] -- the probability of any individual's casting a tie-breaking vote is reduced by a factor on the rough order of 120,000,000,000,000,000,000. Obviously in comparison with the astronomical differences in voting power which can result from such minor variations in political characteristics, the effects of the 12% and 28% population variations considered in Abate v. Mundt and in this case are de minimis, and even the extreme deviations from the norm presented in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962), and Avery v. Midland County, 390 U.S. 474 (1968), pale into insignificance.5[a]

It is not surprising therefore that the Court in this case declines to embrace the measure of voting power suggested by Professor Banzhaf. But it neither suggests an alternative nor considers the consequences of its inability to measure what it purports to be equalizing. See n. 2, supra. Instead it becomes enmeshed in the haze of slogans and numerology which for 10 years has obscured its vision in this field, and finally remands the case "for further proceedings consistent with [its] opinion." Ante, at 163. This inexplicit mandate is at

[ 403 U.S. Page 170]

     least subject to the interpretation that the court below is to inquire into such matters as "the actual influence of Marion County's delegation in the Indiana Legislature," ante, at 147, and the possibility of "recurring poor performance by Marion County's delegation with respect to Center Township ghetto," ante, at 155, with a view to determining whether "any legislative skirmish affecting the State of Indiana or Marion County in particular would have come out differently had Marion County been subdistricted and its delegation elected from single-member districts." Ante, at 148. If there are less appropriate subjects for federal judicial inquiry, they do not come readily to mind. The suggestion implicit in the Court's opinion that appellees may ultimately prevail if they can make their record in these and other like respects should be recognized for what it is: a manifestation of frustration by a Court that has become trapped in the "political thicket" and is looking for the way out.

This case is nothing short of a complete vindication of Mr. Justice Frankfurter's warning nine years ago "of the mathematical quagmire (apart from divers judicially inappropriate and elusive determinants) into which this Court today catapults the lower courts of the country." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 268 (1962) (dissenting opinion). With all respect, it also bears witness to the morass into which the Court has gotten itself by departing from sound constitutional principle in the electoral field. See the dissenting opinion of Mr. Justice Frankfurter in Baker v. Carr, supra, and my separate opinions in Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 589 (1964), and in Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 U.S. 112, 152 (1970). I hope the day will come when the Court will frankly recognize the error of its ways in ever having undertaken to restructure state electoral processes.

I would reverse the judgment below and remand the case to the District Court with directions to dismiss the complaint.


305 F.Supp. 1364, reversed and remanded.

[ 403 U.S. Page 171]

     MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, with whom MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting in part and concurring in the result in part.

The Indiana Constitution provides that "no county, for Senatorial apportionment, shall ever be divided." Art. 4, § 6. The legislative apportionment statutes in Indiana which implemented that provision gave Marion County eight senators, all elected at large. The statutes also gave the county 15 at-large representatives.

Marion County is the most populous in the State. It contains nine townships and includes the city of Indianapolis. On January 9, 1969, this lawsuit was commenced to require a subdivision of the multi-member districting practiced in Marion County. Certain voters contended that the multi-member district deprived them of equal protection of the laws because it diluted the voting rights of an identifiable racial minority within the county.

To determine if there was an identifiable minority within the county the District Court adopted the following definition of "ghetto":

"A primarily residential section of an urban area characterized by a higher relative density of population and a higher relative proportion of substandard housing than in the overall metropolitan area which is inhabited predominantly by members of a racial, ethnic, or other minority group, most of whom are of lower socioeconomic status than the prevailing status in the metropolitan area and whose residence in the section is often the result of social, legal, or economic restrictions or custom." 305 F.Supp. 1364, 1373.

Applying the definition to the extensive evidence in the case, the District Court found there was an identifiable ghetto area within Center Township. The court then contrasted the residence of those elected to the state

[ 403 U.S. Page 172]

     House and Senate from Marion County since 1960. There had been 21 elected senators; two came from Center Township, 11 from Washington Township. Of the 67 representatives, 12 came from Center Township and 28 from Washington Township.

The District Court concluded:

"The inequity of representation by residence of legislators between Washington and Center Townships is apparent . . . . Washington Township, the upper middle-class and wealthy suburban area having 14.64% of the population of Marion County, was the residence of 52.27% of the senators and 41.79% of the representatives. Center Township, having 41.14% of the population (approximately three times as large), was the residence of 9.51% of the senators (less than one-fifth of Washington Township) and 17.91% of the representatives (approximately three-sevenths of Washington Township)." 305 F.Supp., at 1385.

The court found that the voting strength of the cognizable element within Center Township was severely minimized, that minimization occurred by virtue of the strong control which the political parties exert over the nomination process in Marion County, and that black voters within Center Township are unable to be assured of the opportunity of voting for prospective legislators of their choice. The court further found that "under the evidence before the Court such invidious effects will continue so long as Marion County is apportioned into large senate and house multi-member districts." 305 F.Supp., at 1399.


Based on its findings the District Court held the then Indiana apportionment acts unconstitutional and enjoined their enforcement. The court then determined

[ 403 U.S. Page 173]

     that to redistrict Marion County alone would leave constitutionally impermissible population variances between the newly created districts and the other districts in the State and therefore redistricting the entire State was necessary. In its redistricting plan the District Court divided well over half of the counties in the State despite Art. 4, § 6, of the Indiana Constitution. Marion County itself was divided into seven separate senatorial districts and an eighth was created by taking part of Marion and parts of Johnson and Morgan Counties. The court mandated that the 1970 election be conducted in accordance with the plan it approved and the court retained jurisdiction for the purpose of passing on any future claims of unconstitutionality made by the plaintiffs against any future legislative apportionment plan promulgated. This Court stayed the District Court's order. 396 U.S. 1055.

This suit was commenced some 22 months before the 1970 election in ample time for a decision on the merits. The plaintiffs in fact won below but this Court stayed the order. Now the election has been held and a federal decennial census has been taken. Under the compulsion of the decree of the District Court the legislature has adopted single-member districts for the entire State. But absent a federal decree they would certainly follow the mandate of the Indiana Constitution.

As the Court says, the fact that the 1970 election is history does not affect the underlying claim in this case. We have a finding of fact that an identifiable racial minority has its voting strength severely minimized by the operation of multi-member districts. We also have a finding that the invidious effects will continue so long as Marion County has multi-member districts. Under the order of the District Court (absent our stay) the 1965 apportionment statutes could not be used. The District Court would retain jurisdiction and no attempt by the state

[ 403 U.S. Page 174]

     legislature to apply Art. 4, § 6, of the Constitution would be successful because under the conclusions of the District Court it is unconstitutional as applied to Marion County. See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 584. There is no chance that the Indiana Constitution can be amended in time to undo the harm. By its own provisions any amendment requires a majority vote in each house of two consecutive general assemblies; it is then referred to the voters and ratified by majority vote. Art. 16, § 1.

The Indiana Constitution requires "an enumeration . . . of all male inhabitants over the age of twenty-one years" to be made every six years. Art. 4, § 4. Then at the next legislative session, the general assembly is directed to reapportion the State according to the number of male inhabitants above the age of 21. Art. 4, § 5. These provisions fell into disuse and the last enumeration provided for was in 1921 and, prior to Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, the legislature had not been apportioned since that time. See Matthews v. Handley, 179 F.Supp. 470 (ND Ind. 1959); Fruit v. Metropolitan School District, 241 Ind. 621, 172 N. E. 2d 864. Indiana courts had no power to require reapportioning under the state constitution. Parker v. State ex rel. Powell, 133 Ind. 178, 32 N. E. 836.

In 1969 the legislature initially approved proposed constitutional changes to those two sections which will provide for using the federal decennial census for Indiana and apportioning the State immediately thereafter, such apportionment to remain unaltered until the next decennial census. S. J. Res. No. 26, Acts 1969, c. 464. The provision must still be approved by the 1971 general assembly and a majority of the voters. See Art. 16, § 1, of the Indiana Constitution. At the time this case was argued under the Indiana Apportionment Act of 1965 (2d Spec. Sess.), c. 4, § 1, and c. 5, § 1, the 1960 Decennial Census was accepted as correct.

[ 403 U.S. Page 175]

     Nor does the fact that the state legislature has passed a reapportionment plan abolishing multi-member districts throughout the entire State moot this case. But for the decision below no such plan would have been forthcoming. The plan is in plain violation of the state constitution and in view of the fact that no Indiana Legislature has ever violated that provision of the state constitution before it is obvious that the impetus came from the outside.*fn1 The provision of the state constitution forbidding dividing a county for senatorial apportionment is unconstitutional under the Federal Constitution as applied to Marion County. See Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S., at 584. Mooting the case would accomplish nothing. If we were to moot it, the state courts would likely void the 1971 apportionment plan as violative of the state constitution and then the parties would be right back where they were at the beginning of this lawsuit. It is apparent this controversy remains alive and that there is no reason to wait two or more years in order to decide it in a case growing out of a state court determination on the constitutionality of single-member districts in Marion County, as would happen should we vacate the decree below and force the parties to another forum for another round of litigation on the same issue.

 The constitutional provision which now requires multi-member senatorial districts has been in Indiana's constitution from the date of enactment -- 1851. And the ghetto voters' position as a class will not change. The findings of the District Court clearly state the invidious effects will last so long as multi-member districting lasts. The District Court found that "to redistrict Marion County alone, to provide single-member districts or any other type of districts meeting constitutional standards, would

[ 403 U.S. Page 176]

     leave impermissible population variations between the new Marion County districts and other districts in the State." 305 F.Supp., at 1399. Accordingly the court redistricted the entire State.*fn2 The decision to redistrict the State and the finding of minimization of the ghetto voters' strength are intertwined. As the District Court stated, the "portions of the . . . statutes relating to Marion County" were found to be not severable from the full body of the statutes. 305 F.Supp., at 1399. There is no showing here that that finding is even partially erroneous let alone clearly erroneous. A decision to redistrict Marion County involves the entire State; each properly must be considered with the other.


The merits of the case go to the question reserved in Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S. 433, 439, and in Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542, 544, whether a gerrymander can be "constitutionally impermissible." The question of the gerrymander*fn3 is the other half of Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533. Fair representation of voters in a legislative assembly -- one man, one vote -- would seem to require (1) substantial equality of population within each district and (2) the avoidance of district lines that weigh the power of one race more heavily than another. The latter can be done -- and is done -- by astute drawing of district lines that makes the district either heavily Democratic or heavily Republican as the case may be. Lines may be drawn so as to make the voice

[ 403 U.S. Page 177]

     of one racial group weak or strong, as the case may be.

The problem of the gerrymander is how to defeat or circumvent the sentiments of the community. The problem of the law is how to prevent it. As MR. JUSTICE HARLAN once said "A computer may grind out district lines which can totally frustrate the popular will on an overwhelming number of critical issues." Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S., at 551 (dissenting). The easy device is the gerrymander. The District Court found that it operated in this case to dilute the vote of the blacks.


In Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339, we dealt with the problem of a State intentionally making a district smaller to exclude black voters. Here we have almost the converse problem. The State's districts surround the black voting area with white voters.

Gomillion, involving the turning of the city of Tuskegee from a geographical square "to an uncouth twenty-eight-sided figure," 364 U.S., at 340, was only one of our cases which dealt with elevating the political interests of one identifiable group over those of another. Georgia's county unit system was similar, although race was not a factor. Under the Georgia system a farmer in a rural county could have up to 99 times the voting power of his urban-dwelling brother. See Gray v. Sanders, 372 U.S. 368. Here the districting plan operates to favor "upper-middle class and wealthy" suburbanites. 305 F.Supp., at 1385.

A showing of racial motivation is not necessary when dealing with multi-member districts. Burns v. Richardson, 384 U.S. 73, 88; Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S., at 439. Although the old apportionment plan which is in full harmony with the State's 1851 constitution, may not be racially motivated, the test for multi-member districts is whether there are invidious effects.

[ 403 U.S. Page 178]

     That rule is but an application of a basic principle applied in Hunter v. Erickson, 393 U.S. 385. There a city passed a housing law which provided that before an ordinance regulating the sale or lease of realty on the basis of race could become effective it must be approved by a majority vote. Thus, the protection of minority interests became much more difficult. We held that a State or a state agency could not in its voting scheme so disadvantage black interests.

Multi-member districts are not per se unconstitutional. Fortson v. Dorsey, 379 U.S., at 439. In that case we expressly reserved judgment on the question of whether a multi-member districting plan which operated "to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political elements of the voting population" could pass constitutional muster. Ibid.

In Burns v. Richardson, supra, we again considered the problems of multi-member districts. The doubts noted in Fortson v. Dorsey were resolved and we stated that assuming the requirements of Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, were satisfied, multi-member districts are unconstitutional "only if it can be shown that 'designedly or otherwise' . . . [such a district would operate] to minimize or cancel out the voting strength of racial or political elements of the voting population." 384 U.S., at 88. We went on to suggest how the burden of proof could be met.

"It may be that this invidious effect can more easily be shown if, in contrast to the facts in Fortson, districts are large in relation to the total number of legislators, if districts are not appropriately subdistricted to assure distribution of legislators that are resident over the entire district, or if such districts characterize both houses of a bicameral legislature rather than one." Ibid.

These factors are all present in this case. Between the

[ 403 U.S. Page 179]

     largest (Marion) and second largest (Lake) counties in the State, 26% of each house of the legislature is controlled. There is no subdistricting under the Indiana plan. Cf. Dusch v. Davis, 387 U.S. 112. And multimember districts are used in both houses of the legislature.

In both Fortson and Burns we demanded that the invidious effects of multi-member districts appear from evidence in the record. Here that demand is satisfied by (1) the showing of an identifiable voting group living in Center Township, (2) the severe discrepancies of residency of elected members of the general assembly between Center and Washington Townships, cf. BRENNAN, J., dissenting in Abate v. Mundt, post, p. 187, (3) the finding of pervasive influence of the county organizations of the political parties, and (4) the finding that legislators from the county maintain "common, undifferentiated" positions on political issues.*fn4 305 F.Supp., at 1385.


Little time need be spent on the District Court's decision to redistrict the entire State. The court found that there were already impermissible population variances between districts under the current apportionment plan. The ratio between the largest and smallest Senate district was 1.327 to 1. For the House it was 1.279 to 1. The court also found that the new Marion County districts would also have impermissible population variances when compared to existing districts.

[ 403 U.S. Page 180]

     On these facts the demands of our decisions required redistricting. As Reynolds v. Sims showed, the state constitution must give way to requirements of the Supremacy Clause when there is a conflict with the Federal Constitution. And, finally, the District Court's own plan was exemplary. The population ratio for the largest and smallest Senate districts was 1.017 to 1 and for the House it was 1.020 to 1.


It is said that if we prevent racial gerrymandering today, we must prevent gerrymandering of any special interest group tomorrow, whether it be social, economic, or ideological. I do not agree. Our Constitution has a special thrust when it comes to voting; the Fifteenth Amendment says the right of citizens to vote shall not be "abridged" on account of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Our cases since Baker v. Carr have never intimated that "one man, one vote" meant "one white man, one vote." Since "race" may not be gerrymandered, I think the Court emphasizes the irrelevant when it says that the effect on "the actual voting power" of the blacks should first be known. They may be all Democratic or all Republican; but once their identity is purposely washed out of the system, the system, as I see it, has a constitutional defect. It is asking the impossible for us to demand that the blacks first show that the effect of the scheme was to discourage or prevent poor blacks from voting or joining such party as they chose. On this record, the voting rights of the blacks have been "abridged," as I read the Constitution.

The District Court has done an outstanding job, bringing insight to the problems. One can always fault a lower court by stating theoretical aspects of apportionment plans that may not have been considered. This

[ 403 U.S. Page 181]

     District Court acted earnestly and boldly to correct a festering electoral system. I would not even vacate and remand so that it could revise its plan in accordance with the 1970 census figures. That court has retained jurisdiction of the cause and has sense enough to update its own plan. We can make the contribution of the District Court enormous and abiding by leaving it the initiative to carry out the mandate of Reynolds v. Sims.

I would affirm the judgment.

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