Under Georgia's 1931 apportionment law creating the state's congressional districts, Georgia's 5th congressional district had a population that was two to three times higher than the state's other districts. In 1962, several registered voters residing in Georgia's 5th district filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia's Governor and Secretary of State, alleging that the 1931 apportionment law diminished the value of their votes in violation of the Art. I, Sec. 2 mandate that representatives be "apportioned among the several states . . . according to their respective numbers." Before being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia had dismissed the plaintiffs suit, citing the Court's precedent that challenges to congressional apportionment raised non-justiciable political questions.
In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the district court's dismissal on political question grounds was improper in light of the Court's ruling in Baker v. Carr, which found that constitutional challenges to legislative apportionment laws were not political questions and therefore were justiciable. The Court then proceeded to rule that the state's apportionment law violated Art. I, Sec. 2 of the U.S. Constitution because, when viewed in its historical context, that provision mandates that "as nearly as is practicable, one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's."
Significance: (1) Federal courts do have jurisdiction to hear and resolve equal protection challenges to State congressional apportionment plans; (2) Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution requires that State congressional districts be drawn to have strictly equal populations "as nearly as is practicable."
U.S. Supreme Court - 376 U.S. 1 (1964)
- Opinion - 2/17/64