Congressional Apportionment: The Unproductive Search for Standards and Remedies

The increasingly complex problems of elucidating congressional apportionment standards and granting appropriate relief when voting rights have been materially diluted were again brought to the fore in the recent districting decision of Calkins v. Hare. This federal district court decision is illustrative of the uncertainty caused by the Supreme Court’s opinion in the landmark case of Wesberry v. Sanders. Although Wesberry resolved two previously contested issues by ruling that congressional apportionment disputes are susceptible of judicial determination and by setting a standard of population equality in delimiting districts, two associated questions were left unanswered. First, even though Wesberry established that districts are to be defined in terms of practicable equality, the Court did not indicate what latitude, if any, would be acceptable. Second, the opinion is void of any suggestions for remedial action to be applied in those cases where a state’s districting scheme is found to be outside the bounds of practicable equality.