Mike Kueber's Blog

May 27, 2015

One-man, one-vote, finally

Filed under: Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 1:26 pm
Tags: , ,

The US Supreme Court has finally decided to hear an issue that has interested me for several years – i.e., must legislative districts have equal numbers of eligible voters or equal numbers of people?

One of the bedrock fundamentals of American democracy is “one man, one vote.”  In Reynolds v. Sims in 1964, the Supreme Court used this constitutional principle to outlaw legislative districts that were based on geography instead of the number of people.  In reaching this conclusion, the Court had to use some mental gymnastics for rationalizing the fact that the U.S. Constitution specifically called for a U.S. Senate based on geography instead of the number of people.  Apparently, America’s constitutional framework wanted the U.S. Senate to be an anomaly and all other voting districts to be one-man, one-vote because of the amorphous dictate for equal protection under the laws.

Yesterday, articles in USA Today and the New York Times, as is their wont, focused on the superficial partisan aspects of the issue instead of the underlying merits.  The merits are whether proportional representation should consider children and illegal immigrants is districting.  Although current districting does count children and illegal immigrants, it is hard to reason why, in a democracy, it should.

The partisan aspects, which the papers find more interesting, are that urban areas will be hurt because they tend to have relatively more children, and states on the south border – FL, TX, AZ, NM, and CA – will be hurt because they have millions of illegal immigrants.

Although I will be surprised if the Supreme Court fails to correct the current injustice, I remain shocked that the Supreme Court insists that states are required to provide an education to illegal immigrants.

The Ivory Tower often sees things differently.


  1. Mike,

    It does not shock me that children of illegal immigrants are provided a free education here in the US. It seems to me that there is a tacit recognition that many of these young people will go on to become citizens and it improves our nation for them to be educated rather than illiterate drags on society.

    The Senate was seen to be a bit more of an aristocratic body in contrast to the House. It was negotiated into the Constitution, I’m sure you are aware, because the smaller states wanted a body that would not be outvoted by the more populous states. It was part of the compromise that resulted in the demise of the Articles of Confederation.

    It seems to me that in determining representation, the count should include children but only citizens of any type, adult or child. What is more disturbing is the ability of states to gerrymander districts to provide for a disproportionate number of legislators from a particular party rather than a fair representation of the division. Does that bother you?

    Comment by Robert — May 27, 2015 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

    • Robert, thanks for your interesting comments. I don’t know if you read the SCT decision re: free education to illegal immigrants (Plyler v. Doe), but it takes precisely the same position as you. And like affirmative action in college, I think the position has merit. But also like affirmative action in college (according to O’Connor), it shouldn’t exist indefinitely unless we plan to encourage illegal immigration indefinitely.

      Regarding one-person, one-vote for state senates, again I suspect your rationale is precisely the same as the SCT. (Over the years, you have come to think just like a SCT justice.) 🙂 And I agree that it makes sense.

      Regarding which people count for redistricting, I would actually prefer the extreme position of counting only registered voters. That would provide an incentive for people to register and for states to get their people to register. I don’t think noncitizens are entitled to representation, and I don’t think kids are. If you want kids represented, then perhaps their parents should be empowered to vote for them.

      And finally, I agree that gerrymandering is a disgrace. Even with the benefit of counting children and illegal immigrants (which should empower more Democrats), the Republicans have a commanding majority in the US House even though the Republicans generally receive only 50% or less of the Congressional votes nationwide. That’s the power of gerrymandering.

      Hope you are well.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 27, 2015 @ 8:26 pm | Reply

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