Texas's At-large Congressional Seat - History of At-large Seats - Equal Population—the Courts Act

Equal Population—the Courts Act

The Apportionment Clause of Section 2, Article I, of the United States Constitution, together with the amendment to that section made by Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment, requires seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to be apportioned among the states according to the “whole number of persons in each State” and to be elected “by the People of the several States.” These provisions have been construed to require not only that congressional seats be divided among the states according to population, but also that congressional districts within a state be drawn according to population.

In the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims, the United States Supreme Court determined that the general basis of apportionment should be "one person, one vote." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). This rule means that, generally, electoral districts must be equal in population according to the most recent census so that each person’s vote is equally weighted. This holding was applied explicitly to congressional districts by the Supreme Court in the 1964 case of Wesberry v. Sanders.

In Bush v. Martin, plaintiffs from two congressional districts asserted that the congressional districts in Texas were unconstitutional. The Federal District Court in Houston held Texas' Congressional Districting act to be unconstitutional and stated that the Texas Legislature must redraw the Texas Congressional Districts in compliance with Wesberry v. Sanders. Bush v. Martin, 224 F. Supp. 499 (S.D. Tex. 1963), affirmed, 376 U.S. 222 (1964).

The three-judge Federal District Court found that the population disparity among Texas Congressional Districts—ranging from 216,371 to 951,527—was "indeed spectacular" and noted that marked under-representation was "not surprisingly" found in metropolitan districts. Although Texas boasted a total of 254 counties, more than half of the population of the state was living in only eighteen counties and there were fifteen areas in the state that qualified for the label of "metropolitan."

During the 1965 legislative session, the state legislature passed a plan on May 31, 1965, realigning the state's 23 congressional districts into single-member districts. Governor John Connally signed the bill allowing the new districts to take effect for the 1966 elections.

Read more about this topic:  Texas's At-large Congressional Seat, History of At-large Seats

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