Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

RESPONDENT: Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado
LOCATION: New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, First Department

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1962-1965)

CITATION: 377 US 713 (1964)
ARGUED: Mar 31, 1964 / Apr 01, 1964
DECIDED: Jun 15, 1964

Facts of the case

Acting on behalf of several voters in the Denver area, Andres Lucas sued various officials connected with Colorado's elections challenging the apportionment of seats in both houses of the Colorado General Assembly. Under Colorado's apportionment plan, the House of Representatives was apportioned on the basis of population but the apportionment of the Senate was based on a combination of population and other factors (geography, compactness and contiguity, accessibility, natural boundaries, and conformity to historical divisions). Consequently, counties with only about one-third of the State's total population would elect a majority of the Senate; the maximum population-variance ratio would be about 3.6-to-1; and the chief metropolitan areas, with over two-thirds of the State's population, could elect only a bare majority of the Senate. When a three-judge District Court upheld the plan, stressing its recent approval by the electorate, the Supreme Court granted Lucas certiorari.


Is a majority-approved state apportionment plan that permits one house of its congress to be largely apportioned on the basis of factors other than population distribution in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?

Media for Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 31, 1964 in Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 01, 1964 in Lucas v. Forty-Fourth General Assembly of Colorado

Earl Warren:

Number 508, Andres Lucas et al., Appellants versus the Forty-fourth General Assembly of the State of Colorado et al.

Mr. Solicitor General.

Archibald Cox:

Mr. Chief Justice, May it please the Court.

Yesterday, I had outlined our reasons for suggesting that on the merits, this case comes down to the question, whether the per capita inequalities are so severe, so serious in relation to any permissible objective that they might be thought to attain as to constitute a denial of the Equal Protection of the laws.

Let me first say a word about the inequalities themselves.

The basic figures that pertain to the Senate are most conveniently set forth in this case I think in Appendix C to the opinion of the District Court which of course, appears in the back of the jurisdictional statement and they begin on Page 74 run over for a few additional pages.

We attempted to relate them to geography by this map that I asked the clerk to distribute yesterday, which preserves the numbering of the districts as they are in the opinion of the court below and which shows their size and shape and also the average number of people per senator in each district and the population of each county.

Finally, it maybe helpful to point out one-third document, then I think Court will know what they all are, in this blue volume, which is the Appellees' Exhibit D, there is a useful topographical map on the inside of the back cover.

I am not going to ask Your Honors to follow all three at once, but you may find it useful in your study of the case in chambers.

The inequalities run most severely against El Paso County, which appears on our map as Districts 11 and 12 just to the right of the middle.

Now that contains the Colorado Springs area and there you will note that there is one senator for each 71,000 people.

At the other extreme is District 23, Las Animas County, which is down on the right bottom of Colorado, a little to the right of the center, where you will note that there is one senator for 19,000, almost 20,000 people, the ratio versus El Paso County being 3.5:1.

As a matter of fact, there are five counties that have more than three times the per capita representation of a person living in El Paso County.

There are three counties that have three times the representation of a person living in Jefferson County which is in the center of the state right next to Denver and which of course, is a suburb of Denver.

Denver, the little dot, almost in the middle which we've identified by a line as District 28 has only half the per capita representation of the people in seven counties.

The result of these comparisons, and of course, the Court will want to study them is a very striking departure from equality and the principle of majority rule.

A numerical majority of the Colorado senate can be elected from counties containing less that one-third of the people of Colorado.

Denver and the three adjacent counties, those touching upon it, plus Pueblo, and Colorado Springs have in excess of 63% of the population and less than a majority of the Senate.

I would emphasize in addition that these imbalances are getting worse.

Of course, the case must be judged as of today, but nevertheless we are dealing as it were with things in motion, like in airplane.

The imbalance for example on the figures for January 1964 is such that now it takes only a little over 31% of the counties having only a little over 31% of the population to elect a majority of the people.

Denver and its suburbs today have a majority of the population and only 14 out of 39 senators, hardly more than one-third.

With that general picture in mind, I turn to the objectives that are said to justify this lack of per capita equality.

Some of them as Mr. Creamer pointed out yesterday are plainly impermissible.

They are, if they were the basis of the distinctions alone, one could call them invidious discrimination.

For example, the opinion below seems to adopt the view expressed by the witness Rogers and one of the other witnesses, that voters who lived in heavily populated areas aren't worth as much as voters who live in the country.

That it seems is clearly an impermissible ground for differentiation as we've argued in the other cases and as we think Gray and Sanders clearly held.

Again, it seems to us that balancing the economic interests of different parts of the state is a plainly impermissible consideration, for reasons that Mr. Creamer very well stated and that I will attempt to repeat.

I say just word about them.

Appellees say that this is simply a play upon words, that the senators aren't representing economic interest, they are representing people, and of course, that's true, but we submit that they are not entitled to represent people of one economic group, any differently from people of another economic group.