House districting upheld by court new challenge due

April 01, 1992|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The new 1990 assignment of seats in the House of Representatives to the 50 states survived its first constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court yesterday, but another is to come later in the month.

In a unanimous ruling, the justices upheld the 50-year-old mathematical formula that Congress devised to distribute House seats following each 10-year census.

A special federal court in Montana had upset that plan temporarily last October by striking down the formula.

However, the high court said that "Congress had ample power to enact" the particular formula that it chose in 1941, and to have it used automatically every decade since then.

As a result of yesterday's ruling, Montana failed to keep the second House seat it had before the 1990 census.

However, a lower federal court in Boston has ordered the government to recalculate the entire 1990 census, and come up with a completely new distribution of House seats, because of the way the census counted Americans who are abroad in the military or in U.S. government posts.

The Supreme Court will review the decision at a hearing April 21 and is expected to rule quickly.

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