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Colegrove v. Green

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328 U.S. 549 (1946), argued 7–8 Mar. 1946, decided 10 June 1946 by vote of 4 to 3; Frankfurter for the Court, Black in dissent, Jackson not participating (Stone's death left one vacancy). Qualified voters challenged the apportionment of congressional districts in Illinois as lacking appropriate compactness and equality. A three-judge district court dismissed the case and Justices Felix Frankfurter, Stanley Reed, and Harold Burton affirmed that action. These justices branded apportionment a political question and reasoned that invalidation of Illinois districts might, in requiring statewide elections, create an evil greater than that remedied. Such party contests should be resolved by the state legislature subject to congressional supervision. Justice Wiley B. Rutledge concurred in the result, convinced that the short time between a judicial judgment and the impending election made an equitable remedy difficult. Justice Hugo Black, joined by William Douglas and Frank Murphy, believed the failure to reapportion the Illinois districts since 1901 denied the equal protection of the laws and of the guarantee in Article I of the right to vote for congressional representatives.

Weakened by the close division of the justices and by the continuing inaction of state legislatures, the Court declared in Baker v. Carr (1962) that apportionment issues were cognizable under the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. This action set the stage for later decisions requiring approximate equality of electoral districts.

John R. Vile

Subjects: Law

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