Effective Representation and Multimember Districts

The Supreme Court has not decided a case involving an assertion of the claim that a multimember district denies the right of effective representation since Fortson and Burns. However, there have been several subsequent challenges in lower courts to the validity of such districts, and these challenges have generally failed because the factual evidence did not demonstrate conclusively that the voting strength of a legally cognizable racial or political element had been minimized or cancelled. In Chavis v. Whitcomb, however, a three-judge federal district court in Indiana found that the plaintiff had presented sufficient factual evidence to sustain his claim, and therefore held that the multimember district under attack in that case denied the plaintiff his right to effective representation in violation of the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. Thus, by bringing the issue of effective representation squarely into the judicial arena, the Chavis court took another step into the “political thicket” of extending the scope of judicial review over state legislative apportionment schemes. This Comment will analyze the soundness of that step. It is first necessary, however, to examine in greater detail the facts and holding in Chavis.