Karcher v. Daggett Case Brief

Why is the case important?

A New Jersey reapportionment plan destroyed population equality

Facts of the case

Democrats in control of the New Jersey Legislature designed a plan for congressional redistricting in the state which the outgoing Democratic governor signed into law. Even though the district populations differed by less than one percent from each other, they were clearly drawn to maximize Democratic power in the state.

Question

Whether an apportionment plan for congressional districts satisfies the Constitution if the population for the largest district is less than one percent greater than the population of the smallest district.

Answer

(J. Brennan). Yes. Article I, Section 2 establishes a ‘high standard of justice and common sense’ for the apportionment of congressional districts: ‘equal representation for equal numbers of people.’ Given that the census-based population deviations in the Feldman Plan reflect real differences among the districts, it is clear that they could have been avoided or significantly reduced with a good-faith effort to achieve population equality. For that reason alone, it would be inappropriate to accept the Feldman Plan as functionally equivalent to a plan with districts of equal population. The judgment is affirmed.

Conclusion

The Court held that there were no de minimus population variations that were practicably avoidable but which met the standard of art. I, § 2. Because the population deviation could have been reduced by shifting a handful of municipalities from one district to another, the citizens group met its burden of showing that the plan did not come as nearly as practicable to population equality. The district court did not err in finding that the state failed to demonstrate any causal relationship between its avowed goal of preserving minority voting strength in one district and the population variances in the other districts.

  • Case Brief: 1983
  • Appellant: Karcher
  • Appellee: Daggett
  • Decided by: Burger Court

Citation: 462 US 725 (1983)
Argued: Mar 2, 1983
Decided: Jun 22, 1983