''Karcher v. Daggett'', 462 U.S. 725 (1983), was a
United States Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court of the United ...

United States Supreme Court
case involving the legality of
redistricting Redistricting in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 ...
, and possibly
gerrymandering In representative democracies, Gerrymandering (, originally ) refers to political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent of creating undue advantage for a party, group, or socio-economic class within the constituency. ...

, in the state of
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...


The New Jersey Legislature adopted a redistricting plan which resulted in a one percent population difference between the largest and smallest districts. Several citizens came forward and challenged the legislation, claiming it violated Article I, Section 2 of the
Constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

. The district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and determined the law to be unconstitutional. The defendants appealed to the Supreme Court. The "equal representation" standard of Article I, Section 2 requires districts to be apportioned to population equality to the closest possible degree. The population differences here could have been avoided with a good faith effort to achieve population equality. The Court found that the defendants did not meet their burden of proving that the deviations in their plan were necessary to achieve a consistent, nondiscriminatory redistricting. The State had to prove specifically how and why the specific deviations of its plan were for an objective to benefit the system. The defendant tried to prove that the justification for the high deviations was to preserve voting strength of minority groups. However, the court believed that the state could not prove that the population disparities preserved the voting strength of these minority groups.

Opinion of the Court

The Supreme Court upheld the district courts decision based on the plaintiffs' evidence of districts not drawn in "good faith," and the state's failure to offer a legitimate reason for the population deviations exceeding minimum possible as required by Article I, section 2 of the Constitution. The dissenters thought that the population deviations—which were less than the margin of error for the census itself—was not the appropriate grounds for the holding and asserted that the districts should be ruled unconstitutional as a blatant political gerrymander. Justice Stevens's concurring 5th vote held both grounds were valid. The State was compelled to enact a new redistricting plan that followed smaller population deviations of district size. Of note, precisely the same Court ruled political gerrymanders were justiciable three years later in Davis v. Bandemer.


The case is usually cited for its holding that there is no de minimis deviation for population inequality between districts, and that all deviations must be justified by a legitimate governmental interest (such as geographic features or preserving communities-of-interest). However, the case is the earliest Court rejection of a political gerrymander—though Justice Brennan's approach does not require holding on those grounds. In addition, the case is a prime example of the tie between the McDonnell-Douglas burden-shifting framework and redistricting law.


Further reading


External links

* {{New Jersey United States Supreme Court cases United States Supreme Court cases of the Burger Court 1983 in United States case law United States electoral redistricting case law United States equal protection case law Congressional districts of New Jersey United States lawsuits Gerrymandering