MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
The questions in this case are whether the population variations among the election districts provided by a reapportionment plan for the Connecticut General Assembly, proposed in 1971, made out a prima facie
The reapportionment plan for the Connecticut General Assembly became law when published by Connecticut's Secretary of State in December 1971. Under the State's Constitution, the legislature is given the initial opportunity to reapportion itself in the months immediately following the completion of a decennial census of the United States. Conn. Const., Art. III, § 6 (b). In the present case, the legislature was unable to agree on a plan by the state constitutional deadline of April 1, 1971. The task was therefore transferred, as required by the constitution, to an eight-member bipartisan commission. Ibid. The Democratic and Republican Party leaders in the legislature each appointed four commissioners. The commission was given until July 1, 1971, to devise a reapportionment plan, id., § 6 (c); but, although the commission approached agreement, it too was unable to adopt a plan within the deadline. Accordingly, as a final step in the constitutional process, a three-man bipartisan Board was constituted. Id., § 6 (d). The Speaker of the House of Representatives, a Democrat, and the Republican Minority Leader of the House each chose a judge of the State Superior Court to be a Board member, and the two judges in turn designated a third Board member, who was a justice of the State Supreme Court. Ibid.
This Apportionment Board, using the census data available during the summer of 1971, and relying heavily on the legislative commission's tentative plans, filed a
According to the 1970 census data before the Board, the population of Connecticut is 3,032,217. The Board's reapportionment plan provides for a Senate consisting of 36 senators elected from single-member districts. The ideal senatorial district, in terms of population, would thus contain 84,228 people. The districts actually created deviate, on the average, by 0.45% from this ideal, the median deviation being 0.47%. The largest and smallest senatorial districts deviate by +0.88% and -0.93%, respectively, making the total maximum deviation 1.81%.
The reapportionment plan proposed a House of 151 single-member districts. The population of the ideal assembly district would be 20,081. The average deviation from perfect equality for all the plan's assembly districts is 1.9%, the median deviation, 1.8%. The maximum deviation from the ideal is +3.93% and -3.9%. The maximum deviation between any two districts thus totals 7.83%.
In Connecticut, towns rather than counties are the basic unit of local government. See Butterworth v. Dempsey, 229 F.Supp. 754, 761 (Conn.), aff'd, 378 U.S. 564 (1964). The State Constitution provides that "no town shall be divided" for the purpose of creating House districts, except where districts are formed "wholly within the town." Art. III, § 4. No comparable directive exists for the creation of Senate districts. The Constitution further provides, however, that the "establishment of districts . . . shall be consistent with federal
In November 1971, not long after the Board filed the reapportionment plan with the Secretary of the State, an action was brought in federal district court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against implementation of the plan. The complaint alleged that the Board "erroneously applied the one man-one vote doctrine of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . to achieve smaller deviations from population equality for the assembly districts
On June 12, 1972, after a motion to expedite consideration of the appeal had been denied (406 U.S. 942), this Court granted appellant's motion for a stay of the District Court's judgment. 407 U.S. 902. On the basis of that stay, and a subsequent supportive state order,
We think that appellees' showing of numerical deviations from population equality among the Senate and
The requirement of Art. I, § 2, of the Constitution, that representatives be chosen "by the People of the several States," mandates that "one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's." Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 8 (1964) (footnote omitted). This standard "permits only the limited population variances which are unavoidable despite a goodfaith effort to achieve absolute equality, or for which justification is shown." Kirkpatrick v. Preisler, 394 U. S., at 531. In Kirkpatrick and in Wells v. Rockefeller, 394 U.S. 542 (1969), the Court found inconsistent with this standard state statutes creating congressional districts having total maximum deviations of 5.97% and 13.1%, respectively. It is the standard of these cases which is the prevailing rule under Art. I and which we confirm in White v. Weiser, post, p. 783, today, for the purposes of congressional reapportionment.
Earlier this Term, the question arose whether the same standard is applicable when reviewing state legislative reapportionments under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Mahan v. Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). We concluded that there are fundamental differences between congressional districting under Art. I and the Wesberry line of cases on the one hand, and, on the other, state legislative reapportionments
The asserted justification for the divergencies in Mahan was "the State's policy of maintaining the integrity of political subdivision lines," id., at 325, a policy we found to be rational and wholly sufficient to justify the district population disparities of the size and quality that had been found to exist. We ruled that the "relatively minor variations present in the Virginia plan contrast sharply with the larger variations in state legislative reapportionment plans that have been struck
Although requiring that the population variations among legislative districts in Mahan be justified by substantial state considerations, we did not hold that in state legislative cases any deviations from perfect population equality in the districts, however small, make out prima facie equal protection violations and require that the contested reapportionments be struck down absent adequate state justification. Nor had we so held in any prior state reapportionment case. Swann v. Adams, 385 U.S. 440 (1967), and Kilgarlin v. Hill, 386 U.S. 120 (1967), required state justification of population variations found in state legislative reapportionments, but the variations involved in each of these cases exceeded those we dealt with in Mahan.
In the case now before us, appellant urges that the population variations among Senate and House districts in the Board plan did not in and of themselves demonstrate an equal protection violation and that the State was not required to justify them, absent further proof of invidiousness by appellees. For several reasons we think the point is well taken and that the District Court erred in holding to the contrary.
As we noted in Mahan v. Howell, Reynolds v. Sims recognized that a State must make an honest and goodfaith effort to construct its districts "as nearly of equal population as is practicable," but that absolute equality was a "practical impossibility": "Mathematical exactness or precision is hardly a workable constitutional requirement." 377 U. S., at 577. Moreover, the Reynolds court also noted that "some distinctions may well be made between congressional and state legislative representation," and that "[s]omewhat more flexibility may therefore be constitutionally permissible with respect to
As these pronouncements have been worked out in our cases, it has become apparent that the larger variations from substantial equality are too great to be justified by any state interest so far suggested. There were thus the enormous variations struck down in the early cases beginning with Reynolds v. Sims,
We doubt that Reynolds would mandate any other result, if for no other reason than that the basic statistical materials which legislatures and courts usually have to work with are the results of the United States census taken at 10-year intervals and published as soon as possible after the beginning of each decade. These figures may be as accurate as such immense undertakings can be, but they are inherently less than absolutely accurate. Those who know about such things recognize this fact,
What is more, it must be recognized that total population, even if absolutely accurate as to each district when counted, is nevertheless not a talismanic measure of the weight of a person's vote under a later adopted reapportionment plan. The United States census is more of an event than a process. It measures population at only a single instant in time. District populations are constantly changing, often at different rates in either direction, up or down. Substantial differentials in population growth rates are striking and well-known phenomena.
Reynolds v. Sims, of course, dealt with more than the statistical niceties involved in equalizing individual voting strength. It argued that "if a State should provide that the votes of citizens in one part of the State should be given two times, or five times, or 10 times the weight of votes of citizens in another part of the State, it could hardly be contended that the right to vote of those residing in the disfavored areas had not been effectively diluted." 377 U. S., at 562. To conclude differently, "and to sanction minority control of state legislative bodies, would appear to deny majority rights in a way that far surpasses any possible denial of minority rights that might otherwise be thought to result." Id., at 565. More fundamentally, Reynolds recognized that "the achieving of fair and effective representation for all citizens is . . . the basic aim of legislative apportionment," id., at 565-566, and it was for that reason that the decision insisted on substantial equality of populations among districts.
This is a vital and worthy goal, but surely its attainment does not in any commonsense way depend upon eliminating the insignificant population variations involved in this case. Fair and effective representation may be destroyed by gross population variations among districts, but it is apparent that such representation does not depend solely on mathematical equality among district
Nor is the goal of fair and effective representation furthered by making the standards of reapportionment so difficult to satisfy that the reapportionment task is recurringly removed from legislative hands and performed by federal courts which themselves must make the political decisions necessary to formulate a plan or accept those made by reapportionment plaintiffs who may have wholly different goals from those embodied in the official plan. From the very outset, we recognized that the apportionment task, dealing as it must with fundamental "choices about the nature of representation," Burns v. Richardson, 384 U. S., at 92, is primarily a political and legislative process. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S., at 586. We doubt that the Fourteenth Amendment requires repeated displacement of otherwise appropriate state decisionmaking in the name of essentially minor deviations from perfect census-population equality that no one, with confidence, can say will deprive any person of fair and effective representation in his state legislature.
That the Court was not deterred by the hazards of the
This very case represents what should not happen in the federal courts. The official state functionaries proposed a plan with a maximum variation among the districts of 7.83% in the House and 1.81% in the Senate, and with respective average variations of 1.90% and .45%. Appellees then proposed four alternate plans for the House, three of which involved slightly larger variations among districts but cut fewer town lines. The fourth cut more lines, but had a maximum variation between its largest and smallest district of only 2.6%. The District Court thought the state plan involved unacceptably large variations between districts, although in the House, with districts of about 20,000 people, the average variation involved only 399 people, and the largest variations involved only 1,573 people.
The point is, that such involvements should never begin. 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.
State legislative districts may be equal or substantially equal in population and still be vulnerable under the Fourteenth Amendment. A districting statute otherwise acceptable, may be invalid because it fences out a racial group so as to deprive them of their pre-existing municipal vote. Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960). A districting plan may create multimember districts perfectly acceptable under equal population standards, but invidiously discriminatory because they are employed "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). See White v. Regester, post, p. 755; Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124 (1971); Abate v. Mundt, 403 U. S., at 184 n. 2; Burns v. Richardson, 384 U. S., at 88-89. We must, therefore, respond to appellees' claims in this case
The record abounds with evidence, and it is frankly admitted by those who prepared the plan, that virtually every Senate and House district line was drawn with the conscious intent to create a districting plan that would achieve a rough approximation of the statewide political strengths of the Democratic and Republican Parties, the only two parties in the State large enough to elect legislators from discernible geographic areas. Appellant insists that the spirit of "political fairness" underlying this plan is not only permissible, but a desirable consideration in laying out districts that otherwise satisfy the population standard of the reapportionment cases. Appellees, on the other hand, label the plan as nothing less than a gigantic political gerrymander, invidiously discriminatory under the Fourteenth Amendment.
We are quite unconvinced that the reapportionment plan offered by the three-member Board violated the Fourteenth Amendment because it attempted to reflect the relative strength of the parties in locating and defining election districts. It would be idle, we think, to contend that any political consideration taken into account in fashioning a reapportionment plan is sufficient to invalidate it. Our cases indicate quite the contrary.
It may be suggested that those who redistrict and reapportion should work with census, not political, data and achieve population equality without regard for political impact. But this politically mindless approach may produce, whether intended or not, the most grossly gerrymandered results; and, in any event, it is most unlikely that the political impact of such a plan would remain undiscovered by the time it was proposed or adopted, in which event the results would be both known and, if not changed, intended.
It is much more plausible to assume that those who redistrict and reapportion work with both political and
[For dissenting opinion of MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, see post, p. 772.]
"A census, by its nature, can never be an exact count of a nation. This is especially true of the United States . . . . Thus, an error of 1 or 2 percent in the count of the total population is to be expected; professionally, it is regarded as an `acceptable' error."
The Census Bureau estimates that the 1970 census had an under coverage rate of 2.5%, or about 5,300,000 people. Address of J. S. Siegel, Population Association of America Annual Meeting, in New Orleans, La., Apr. 26, 1973. See N. Y. Times, Apr. 26, 1973, p. 1, col. 1.
Inexactness of census data is most evident with respect to minorities. It is estimated, for example, that Negroes were underenumerated in the 1970 census by 7.7%, as compared to an estimated 1.9% undercount for white persons. Ibid. See also Siegel, Completeness of Coverage of the Nonwhite Population in the 1960 Census and Current Estimates, and Some Implications, in Social Statistics and the City 13 (D. Heer ed. 1968).
In Connecticut, for example, the population of the State as a whole grew by 19.6% during the 1960's. But the population in the area comprising the Second Congressional District grew by over 28%, while the population in the Fourth District grew by only 11.2%. The U. S. Bureau of the Census, Congressional District Data Book, 93d Congress, Connecticut 7 (1972).
"We start with the proposition that the Equal Protection Clause does not require the States to use total population figures derived from the federal census as the standard by which this substantial population equivalency is to be measured. . . . Neither in Reynolds v. Sims nor in any other decision has this Court suggested that the States are required to include aliens, transients, short-term or temporary residents, or persons denied the vote for conviction of crime, in the apportionment base by which their legislators are distributed and against which compliance with the Equal Protection Clause is to be measured. The decision to include or exclude any such group involves choices about the nature of representation with which we have been shown no constitutionally founded reason to interfere. Unless a choice is one the Constitution forbids, cf., e. g., Carrington v. Rash, 380 U.S. 89, the resulting apportionment base offends no constitutional bar, and compliance with the rule established in Reynolds v. Sims is to be measured thereby."