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Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964), was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in which the Court ruled that districts in the United States House of Representatives must be approximately equal in population. Along with Baker v. Carr (1962) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), it was part of a series of Warren Court cases that applied the principle of "one person, one vote" to U.S. legislative bodies.

Wesberry v. Sanders
Seal of the United States Supreme Court
Argued November 18, 1963
Decided February 17, 1964
Full case nameJames P. Wesberry, Jr. et al. v. Carl E. Sanders et al.
Citations376 U.S. 1 (more)
84 S. Ct. 526; 11 L. Ed. 2d 481
Case history
PriorWesberry v. Vandiver, 206 F. Supp. 276 (N.D. Ga. 1962), prob. juris. noted, 374 U.S. 802 (1963).
Holding
The Constitution requires that members of the House of Representatives be selected by districts composed, as nearly as is practicable, of equal population.
Court membership
Chief Justice
Earl Warren
Associate Justices
Hugo Black · William O. Douglas
Tom C. Clark · John M. Harlan II
William J. Brennan Jr. · Potter Stewart
Byron White · Arthur Goldberg
Case opinions
MajorityBlack, joined by Warren, Douglas, Brennan, White, Goldberg
Concur/dissentClark
DissentHarlan
DissentStewart
Laws applied
U.S. Const., art. I, § 2.
This case overturned a previous ruling or rulings
Colegrove v. Green, 328 U.S. 549 (1946)

Article One of the United States Constitution requires U.S. House districts to be apportioned by population among the states, but it did not explicitly require states to establish districts equal in population. The case arose from a challenge to the unequal population of congressional districts in the state of Georgia.

In his majority opinion, which was joined by five other justices, Associate Justice Hugo Black held that the text of the Article One required that "as nearly as practicable one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's." The decision had a major impact on representation in the House, as many states had districts of unequal population, often to the detriment of urban voters. The United States Senate was unaffected by the decision since the Constitution explicitly grants each state two senators.

DecisionEdit

Writing for the Court majority in Wesberry, Justice Black argued that a reading of the debates of the Constitutional Convention demonstrated conclusively that the Framers had meant, in using the phrase “by the People,” to guarantee equality of representation in the election of Members of the House of Representatives.[1]

Writing in dissent, Justice Harlan argued that the statements cited by Justice Black had uniformly been in the context of the Great Compromise. Justice Harlan further argued that the Convention debates were clear to the effect that Article I, § 4, had vested exclusive control over state districting practices in Congress and that the Court action overrode a congressional decision not to require equally populated districts.[1]

CriticismEdit

In a 2012 law review article, George Mason University Law School Professor Nelson Lund aggressively criticized Justice Black's majority opinion, vehemently praised Justice Harlan's dissent,[2] and specifically wrote, "Harlan demolished every one of Black’s arguments and exposed every piece of Black’s textual and historical evidence as fraudulent."[2]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Carpenter, Richard V. (1964), "Wesberry v. Sanders: A Case of Oversimplification", Villanova Law Review, 9: 415.
  • Weiss, Jonathan (1964), "An Analysis of Wesberry v. Sanders", Southern California Law Review, 8: 67.

External linksEdit