Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1; 84 S. Ct. 526; 11 L. Ed. 2d 481 (1964)

Facts—Qualified voters of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District brought action to set aside a Georgia statute establishing congressional districts. The population of the Fifth District was two to three times greater than that of some other congressional districts in the state. Since there is only one congressman for each district, it was claimed that there resulted a debasement of the people’s right to vote because their congressman represented two to three times as many people as did congressmen from some other Georgia districts.

Question—Does Georgia’s districting statute abridge the requirement of Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States?


ReasonsJ. Black (6–3). The statute contracts the value of some votes and expands the value of others. In its historical context the command of Article I, Section 2 that representatives be chosen “by the people of the several states” means that as nearly as practicable one person’s vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another’s. “While it may not be possible to draw congressional districts with mathematical precision, that is no excuse for ignoring our Constitution’s plain objective of making equal representation for equal numbers of people with the fundamental goal for the House of Representatives. That is the high standard of justice and common sense which the founders set for us.”

In a partial dissent, J. Clark argued that the case should be remanded to the District Court to rule on its merits.

J. Harlan’s dissent questioned the one-person/one-vote standard, and J. Stewart, although believing the issue at hand was justiciable, did not think the Constitution required equality of representation among districts.

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