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Law School Case Brief

White v. Regester - 412 U.S. 755, 93 S. Ct. 2332 (1973)


Multimember districts are not per se unconstitutional, nor are they necessarily unconstitutional when used in combination with single-member districts in other parts of the state. But the United States Supreme Court has entertained claims that multimember districts are being used invidiously to cancel out or minimize the voting strength of racial groups.


A reapportionment plan for the Texas House of Representatives provided for 150 representatives to be selected from 79 single-member districts and 11 multimember districts. Under the plan, the population of the smallest district (71,597) was approximately 9.9 percent smaller than that of the largest district (78,943). The plan was challenged in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. A three-judge District Court was convened and held that the reapportionment plan was unconstitutional because of the state's failure to justify the population variations among the districts, and that in two counties, the use of multimember districts unconstitutionally diluted the votes of African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, respectively.


Were multimember districts properly found to have been invidiously discriminatory against racial or ethnic groups?




The Court held that the voters failed to carry their burden of proof in establishing a violation of the Equal Protection Clause from population variations alone. The total variation between the two districts was 9.9 percent, but the average deviation of all House districts from the ideal was 1.82 percent. Relatively minor population deviations among state legislative districts did not substantially dilute the weight of individual votes in the larger districts. However, the district court's findings that the black and Mexican-American communities were removed from the political process were sufficient to sustain its order invalidating the multimember districts.

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