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Case Basics
Docket No. 
No. 71-373
No. 71-444
(Argued the cause for the appellants in No. 71-364)
(Pro se, argued the cause for appellees Howell et al. in both cases)
(Argued the cause for the appellant in No. 71-373)
(Pro se, argued the cause in both cases)
Facts of the Case 

In 1971, the Virginia legislature reapportioned itself. The plan for the House of Representatives provided for 100 representatives from 52 districts with each House member representing an average of 46,485 constituents(with a variance between largest and smallest being 16.4 percent, compared to the ideal 3.89 percent). Henry Howell challenged the plan as unconstitutional because its population deviations were too large to satisfy the principle of "one person, one vote." This case was decided together with City of Virginia Beach v. Howell and Weinberg v. Prichard.


Was the Virginia reapportionment plan invalid under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Decision: 5 votes for Mahan, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Equal Protection

The Court found that the plan was constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause as described in Reynolds v. Sims. The Virginia plan is not to be judged by the more stringent congressional standards in Section 2 of Article I. The Equal Protection Clause requires a state to make an "honest and good faith effort" to construct districts of as nearly equal population as practicable. Some deviations from the equal population principle are valid if based on legitimate considerations of a "rational state policy." The Virginia plan advanced the policy of reapportionment without sacrificing substantial equality.

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MAHAN v. HOWELL. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 26 August 2015. <>.
MAHAN v. HOWELL, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 26, 2015).
"MAHAN v. HOWELL," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 26, 2015,