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Avery v. Midland County
United States Supreme Court
390 U.S. 474 (1968)
Midland County, Texas (defendant) was governed by a Commissioners Court, a body tasked with appointing county officials, administering welfare services, building and maintaining bridges and roads, adopting county budgets, and setting the county tax rate, among other things. The Commissioners Court was made up of five members. One member was the county judge, who was elected by the entire county. The other four members were commissioners, elected by their respective districts. Midland County’s four electoral districts were unequally populated. The district where much of the city of Midland lived had a population of 67,906, and the other three districts each had a population of less than 1,000. Avery (plaintiff) challenged the drawing of electoral districts, arguing that the unequal populations violated the one person, one vote principle read into the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Midland County defended its practices by arguing that the Commissioners Court conducted administrative business rather than legislative business. It also justified its disproportionate number of members from rural districts by pointing out that the city of Midland had its own government to focus on urban residents of the county. The Texas Supreme Court found that the Commissioners Court had only negligible legislative function and that the Commissioners Court had an acceptable rural focus, as many of its urban responsibilities had been transferred to the city government. The court concluded that the county did not need to follow the one person, one vote standard and have equal district populations for the Commissioners Court. Avery appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (White, J.)
Dissent (Fortas, J.)
Dissent (Harlan, J.)
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