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Mahan v. Howell

What Is The Percentage?

In 1971, Virginia revised its state constitution. At the same time, it reapportioned the electoral districts for its House of Delegates and its state senate. Almost immediately, two suits were brought against the Virginia plan. Henry E. Howell, Jr. and Clive L. DuVal II charged that the variation in population between House of Delegates districts in the new plan was just too large. They also charged that the particular way that the districts were divided was "racial gerrymandering." Howell and DuVal were claiming that the legislature had drawn its electoral districts so as to give white people more than their fair share of voting strength, at the expense of African American voters.

Howell and DuVal took their case to the district court, which agreed with them. The district court found that under the state plan, there was as much as a 16.4 percent difference between the smallest and the biggest delegates district--far too great a variation to be truly fair to all voters. DuVal argued that actually, the difference was even greater, as much as 23.6 percent. Either way, the district court objected to the state plan, and it substituted a plan of its own.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Mahan v. Howell - Significance, What Is The Percentage?, Home-port Or Home Address?, Flexibility And Local Control