As the Supreme Court observed,
Decennial reapportionment appears to be a rational approach to readjustment of legislative representation in order to take into account population shifts and growth . . . . Compliance with such an approach would clearly meet the minimal requirements for maintaining a reasonably current scheme of legislative representation.
Id. at 583-84. Less frequent reapportionment would "assuredly be constitutionally suspect." Id.
Reynolds, however, does not stand for the proposition that states are "absolutely free . . . from having to reapportion more than once in a ten year period." Farnum v. Burns, 548 F. Supp. 769, 774 (D.R.I. 1982) (three-judge court). Instead, Reynolds simply "set[s] a floor below which such frequency may not constitutionally fall." Garza v. County of Los Angeles, 918 F.2d 763, 772 (9th Cir. 1990). Courts have, underexceptional circumstances, found voting districts invalid between decennial reapportionment and ordered immediate redistricting. See, e.g., Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. 124, 29 L. Ed. 2d 363, 91 S. Ct. 1858 (1971) (invalidating 1965 plan before next decennial redistricting where 1965 plan found invalid when enacted); Farnum v. Burns, 548 F. Supp. 769 at 774-75 (drastic population shifts resulting in maximum population variations of 88 percent merit court interference where election machinery not yet in gear); Flateau v. Anderson, 537 F. Supp. 257 (S.D.N.Y. 1982) (three-judge court) (court interference merited where more than 10 years between last redistricting and proposed next one was more than 10 years and only reason for state's timetable was "tradition"), appeal dismissed, 458 U.S. 1123, 73 L. Ed. 2d 1394, 103 S. Ct. 5 (1983).
The last redistricting of Oakland's City Council Districts took place in 1984, and said Districts will be redistricted in 1993--within the decennial frequency below which redistricting may not fall. Absent exceptional circumstances, it would be "beyond the authority of this or any federal court" to force a redistricting plan before 1993. Mac Govern v. Connolly, 637 F. Supp. 111, 113-14 (D. Mass. 1986) (three-judge court) (suing two years before the next scheduled redistricting). Ignoring a federal decennial census for three years, however, constitutes such an exceptional circumstance. "Reynolds instituted a requirement of periodic reapportionment based upon current population data." Garza, 918 F.2d at 772 (emphasis added). The right to an equal vote and to equal representation is too important to allow a state or city absolute discretion in delaying post-census redistricting.
A state's decision to delay redistricting for more than one year after the federal decennial census must be "constitutionally suspect."
To determine whether Oakland's redistricting timetable is "constitutionally infirm" as well, the Court must balance Oakland's interest in delaying redistricting until after the 1992 elections against the interest of Oakland voters whose voting strength stands to be diluted in the 1992 elections. See Flateau, 537 F. Supp. 257 at 264-65 . Oakland certainly has interests in "the need for stability and continuity in the organization of the legislative system." Reynolds, 377 U.S. at 583. The reported 17.8 maximum variation is therefore permissible if "based on legitimate considerations incident to the effectuation of a rational state policy," Mahan, 410 U.S. at 325, and if not outweighed by the voters' interest.
Oakland's decision to delay redistricting until 1993 to assure accurate and final census data is a "rational state policy" in view of Oakland's party status in pending 1990 census litigation.
In contrast, the significance of the voters' interest, which must be weighed in relation to the severity of the malapportionment, is not sufficiently grave to compel disregarding Oakland's "rational state policy."
Oakland's decision to delay redistricting until after the 1992 elections is therefore not constitutionally infirm.
2. Serious Questions and Relative Harms
The second test for preliminary injunctive relief requires that serious questions be raised by plaintiffs and that the benefits of the requested relief outweigh any possible harm to the state. After the parties' stipulated request to consolidate the preliminary injunction hearing with trial on the merits
and this Court's finding that Oakland's decision to redistrict after the 1992 election is not constitutionally infirm, however, an analysis under the serious questions and relative harms test is moot. But even if no consolidation motion was made and serious questions were presented, the benefits of the requested relief do not outweigh the possible harm Oakland would face.
a. Public Interest Concerns
The unique concerns associated with redistricting cases make public interest a critical factor in deciding whether to preliminarily enjoin an existing redistricting plan. The strong public interest in having elections go forward, for example, weighs heavily against an injunction that would delay an upcoming election. Indeed, the Supreme Court has stated that:
under certain circumstances, such as where an impending election is imminent and a State's election machinery is already in progress, equitable considerations might justify a court in withholding the granting of immediately effective relief in a legislative apportionment case, even though the existing apportionment scheme was found invalid. In awarding or withholding immediate relief, a court is entitled to and should consider the proximity of a forthcoming election and the mechanics and complexities of state election laws, and should act and rely upon general equitable principles.
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 585, 12 L. Ed. 2d 506, 84 S. Ct. 1362 (1964). Courts have not been shy, under similar circumstances, to deny immediate injunctive relief against invalid plans. See, e.g., Watkins v. Mabus, 771 F. Supp. 789, 802-804 (S.D. Miss.) (invalid plan allowed on interim basis where court could not institute alternate plan in timely fashion), aff'd in part and vacated in part on other grounds, 112 S. Ct. 412 (1991); In re Pennsylvania Congressional Dists. Reapportionment Cases, 535 F. Supp. 191, 194 (M.D. Pa. 1982) (injunction denied where it would have delayed a primary election less than two months away and resulting in great expense to public, disruption of campaign organization and confusion).
The Oakland election machinery is already in gear for the June 2, 1992 primary election: the deadline for candidates to establish residency in the districts they want to run in has passed, the period for filing nomination papers has begun and several candidates have already filed to run. Even if the Court could now adopt a redistricting plan, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters has informed the Court that it would still be too late to implement new districts in time for the June 2, 1992 primary election. This Court should not impose the significant costs of delaying an election when Plaintiffs, with nearly a year in which to seek a hearing on the merits, have done so only now that the election machinery is in gear. See Mac Govern v. Connolly, 637 F. Supp. 111, 116 (D. Mass. 1986).
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is hereby DENIED and the action DISMISSED. A judgment of dismissal is hereby ENTERED.
The Clerk shall close the file.
DATED: February 24, 1992
FERN M. SMITH
United States District Judge