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THIGPEN v. MEYERS

July 23, 1964

James THIGPEN, Plaintiff,
v.
Victor A. MEYERS, Secretary of State of the State of Washington, and John O'Connell, Attorney General of the State of Washington, Defendants, League of Women Voters of Washington, Intervenor



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BEEKS

This is a narrative of frustration and failure. This case was filed on June 6, 1962. The first hearing was had on July 13, 1962. At that time it was brought to our attention that an initiative measure designed to reapportion the legislature on the basis of the 1960 Federal Consus *fn1" would be upon the ballot at the November, 1962, general election. Upon request, the court continued the matter for trial to a date subsequent to the general election. The initiative was defeated and the matter was heard on the merits on November 30, 1962. On December 13, 1962, we filed our opinion *fn2" declaring the legislative districts of the State of Washington established pursuant to Chapters 5 and 289, Washington Laws of 1957, *fn3" invidiously discriminatory and hence unconstitutional. We took notice of the fact that a new legislature would convene on January 14, 1963, *fn4" and after being assured that the legislature would perform its constitutional duty and validly reapportion itself if given the opportunity to do so, we continued the matter until April 8, 1963, for the purpose of affording such opportunity. The legislature thereafter met in general session, followed by a special session, but failed to reapportion itself. On May 27, 1963, we issued a decree enjoining the holding of further elections pursuant to the statutes declared by us to be unconstitutional. *fn5" More than two years have now expired since the date of the original hearing without any accomplishment and the woes of reapportionment are still upon us. Like an echo from the past, we are again assured that the 1965 legislature will lawfully reapportion itself if we will stay the effect of our decree of May 27, 1963, and permit matters to proceed as we did in December, 1962. This we refuse to do.

What then are the alternatives? It has been suggested that we could direct that elections to both houses of the legislature be held on a state-wide or 'at large' basis or that we could ourselves undertake to redistrict by judicial fiat.

 Elections at large would undoubtedly satisfy the constitutional requirements of legislative representation. They would, however, be chaotic insofar as the voting public is concerned and such remedy might very well produce a result far more inimical than the evils sought to be eradicated in that a legislature elected on a state-wide basis might very well produce a less representative government than now exists.

 At this late date judicial reapportionment is likewise not feasible. There is only a short time remaining until the primary election on September 15 and the lead time necessary to enable election officials to perform the many administrative functions necessary therefor substantially reduced this period. In order for this court to intelligently and fairly reapportion the legislature and promulgate rules for the implementation thereof, it would be necessary to hold hearings and take extensive testimony to enable it to fulfill its obligation and the short period of time remaining simply renders this method impractical.

 What then should be done? The simple and obvious solution would be to call a special session of the legislature forthwith for the purpose of establishing constitutional legislative districts. We are told that this cannot be done but we find such contention without merit. *fn6"

 To the end that redistricting, a political act, may be accomplished in this State by the body primarily constitutionally charged with such responsibility, and to avoid any taint of unconstitutionality, we sanction a special session of the legislature for the sole and limited purpose of enacting redistricting legislation on a constitutional basis, together with the enactment of such legislation as may be necessary to sustain such special session and to carry the plan adopted through the elective process.

 It is said that this solution would result in chaos and confusion within the legislature in that 'voice' votes on the floor or in committee would not be practical. We find this criticism to be exaggerated and of no greater dignity than an inconvenience. If we must choose between a solution inconvenient to the electorate and one inconvenient to the legislature, we choose the latter because, after all, any such inconvenience is the product of the legislature's own inertia.

 We do not claim this to be the ideal solution. It has some limitations, to be sure, but it is workable even though inconvenient. The weighting of a legislator's vote is but a form of reapportionment, and hence is within the equitable powers of this court. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 84 S. Ct. 1362, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506, and such weighting gives constitutional validity to the statutes creating legislative districts which we have heretofore declared unconstitutional in that it ultimately satisfies the constitutional test of 'one person -- one vote' enunciated by the Supreme Court of the United States. *fn8"

 The population, the number of representatives and the number of senators for each of the 49 legislative districts in the State of Washington are set forth in paragraph 7 of the Pretrial Order, which by reference we adopt and make a part hereof.

 It also appears in the Pretrial Order that if each legislative district had exactly the same population as every other legislative district, then the number of persons per State representative would be 28,527 (par. 17) and the number of persons per State senator would be 57,636 (par. 18). Thus, the norm per representative is 28,527 and per senator 57,636.

 The weight of the vote to which each member of the legislature (those elected during the 1964 general election and those heretofore elected to office until 1966) shall be entitled during the 1965 session of the legislature or until the further order of this court shall be determined by the following formulas: REPRESENTATIVES Population represented - Weight of vote 28,527

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