Making Politics De Minimis in the Political Process: The Unworkable Implications of Cox V. Larios in State Legislative Redistricting and Reapportionment

By Dalton, James R. | Brigham Young University Law Review, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

Making Politics De Minimis in the Political Process: The Unworkable Implications of Cox V. Larios in State Legislative Redistricting and Reapportionment


Dalton, James R., Brigham Young University Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

Following the completion of the United States decennial census in the year 2000, state legislatures and federal courts returned to the frenzied and familiar world of congressional and state legislative redistricting and reapportionment.1 In the course of redrawing electoral district boundaries and rebalancing district populations, the actions of state legislatures are often and inevitably called into question before the federal bench. But who should decide the size and shape of the fundamental divisions of our electoral system?2

States, and more particularly state legislatures, are constitutionally endowed with the power and prerogative to draw the physical boundaries of legislative and congressional districts.3 The courts, however, play a vital role in ensuring that redistricting and reapportionment plans do not violate constitutional guarantees of equal protection by preventing "invidious discrimination"4 and by upholding the "one person, one vote" principle.5 In the context of congressional districting, the Supreme Court has given states a strict requirement that distinct districts within a state be of nearly equal population.6 In other words, any deviation from an equal population distribution must be justified by a legitimate state interest.7 In contrast, judicial review of state legislative districting plans represents a significant intrusion into an inherently local process and the courts have been appropriately deferential to state legislatures, so long as the resulting population deviations are de minimis.8 Consequently, courts have not traditionally required states to justify total population deviations that are below 10%, so long as there is no evidence of invidious discrimination.9 Deviations above 10%, however, are prima facie evidence of invidious discrimination and trigger, by implication, a type of strict scrutiny review that requires states to justify such deviations by showing that they are the result of some traditional state interest.10

The 10% threshold has proven to be a workable standard,11 as evidenced by the great reliance of most states; the majority have drawn state legislative districts with deviations falling between 9 and 10% in at least one, and usually both, houses of their state legislatures.12 Yet, in Cox v. Larios, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision of a three-judge district court that upset precedent by invalidating a Georgia state legislative redistricting statute with a total population deviation within the 10% limit.13 The Court, in the absence of any colorable claim of racial discrimination, vote dilution, or unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, essentially applied strict scrutiny by requiring the Georgia General Assembly to justify its plan despite the absence of discrimination against a suspect classification.14 The Court justified the outcome because it found evidence that state legislators were partially motivated by political interests in enacting the redistricting proposal.15

Cox represents a significant departure from precedent and creates an unworkable standard for state legislatures to meet when drawing state legislative districts by effectively eliminating the traditional 10% safe harbor and by proscribing partisan influence. The Cox court ignores the reality and the political nature of state legislatures16 and removes the flexibility that state legislatures need to reach political compromises in what is arguably their most heated and politically contentious function.17 As a consequence, legislatures may become unable to enact politically viable districting plans, leaving this task to the courts.18 Even when compromise is achieved, and states adopt a redistricting plan, anytime they fail to achieve a zero population deviation there will be allegations of undue political influence and an inevitable onslaught of politically motivated lawsuits.19 The ensuing judicial dominion might not only infringe on state legislative discretion but would likely cost states millions of dollars in increased litigation expenses.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Making Politics De Minimis in the Political Process: The Unworkable Implications of Cox V. Larios in State Legislative Redistricting and Reapportionment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.