Please update your browser

You're using a version of Internet Explorer that isn't supported by Questia.
To get a better experience, go to one of these sites and get the latest
version of your preferred browser:

The One Senator, One Vote Clause

By Eskridge, William N., Jr. | Constitutional Commentary, Summer 1995 | Go to article overview

The One Senator, One Vote Clause


Eskridge, William N., Jr., Constitutional Commentary


Article I, section 3, clause 1 provides that the Senate "shall be composed of two Senators from each State, * * * and each Senator shall have one Vote." The requirement that each state have two Senators was part of the "Great Compromise" reached in Philadelphia, and may still be defensible today, to assure that the Senate would be a deliberative body with relatively few members and that the interests of the states qua states would be represented. The requirement that each Senator have one vote was also part of the Great Compromise but is much harder to defend today. In my opinion, the "one Senator, one Vote" clause is the most problematic one remaining in the Constitution.

The United States Senate flouts the constitutional principle of "one person, one vote," in large part because of the "one Senator, One Vote" clause. Chief Justice Warren said as much in Reynolds v. Sims,(1) where the Court held that state apportionments following the example of the Senate violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Chief Justice wrote:

* * * The right of a citizen to equal representation and to have [his or her] vote weighted equally with those of all other citizens in the election of members of one house of a bicameral state legislature would amount to little if States could effectively submerge the equal-population principle in the apportionment of seats in the other house. * * * Deadlock between the two bodies might result in compromise and concession on some issues. But in all too many cases the more probable result would be frustration of the majority will through minority veto in the house not apportioned on a population basis[.]

The one Senator, one Vote clause is problematic, both because it is inconsistent with a bedrock constitutional value (majority rule) and because its derogation from that value threatens energetic government. The clause is more worrisome than other problematic clauses, because there is little room for "interpretation" to ameliorate its ill effects.

The one Senator, one Vote clause systematically skews national policy towards sagebrush values. The fourteen sagebrush states(2) have almost one-third of the votes in the U.S. Senate, but less than one-tenth of the people in the country. Although the sagebrush Senators are not completely homogeneous, they do exhibit block voting characteristics and predictably affect closely divided chamber votes. Three recent examples: if Senate votes were weighted according to the states' representation in the House (each Senator receiving half of the state's House allotment), the Senate would have voted 295-140 to override President Bush's veto of the 1990 civil rights bill, would have rejected the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court in 1991 (albeit in a close vote, 224-211), and would have overwhelmingly (238-165) voted to remove the ban on entry into the United States of people who are infected with the HIV virus (a move that was defeated by 52-46 when proposed in 1993). Consider each example in more detail.

The first example reveals the precise contours and some limitations of my objection. Even if the Senate had overridden President Bush's veto in 1990, it is doubtful that the House would have done so. And, in any event, a civil rights bill was enacted in 1991. Nonetheless, Chief Justice Warren's point can still be made: the one Senator, one Vote rule affects the point at which a compromise will be crafted; the 1991 civil rights statute was a diluted version of the 1990 bill.(3) That the one Senator, one Vote rule is so strongly anti-democratic is cause for concern, but that concern might be ameliorated if it served a substantive value. For example, the Framers required bicameral approval and presentment to the President to assure that hasty majorities would not override individual liberties or unsettle the rule of law.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The One Senator, One Vote Clause
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.