Political Gerrymandering and the Courts

By Bernard Grofman | Go to book overview
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2
The Unfinished Reapportionment Revolution

Gordon E. Baker

Toward the end of his life, Thomas Jefferson observed that "the generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it."1 The author of the Declaration of Independence here alluded to the difficulty of translating animating purposes or ideals into practice.

With this in mind, we might ponder the course of the reapportionment revolution in the quarter century since 1962. Now that state legislative and congressional constituencies reflect dose (at times almost precise) population equalities, does this indicate that the goals of this major institutional transformation have been fulfilled?

To answer this question, we must first probe the underlying conceptual framework of the decisions that Earl Warren later termed the most significant of his sixteen-year tenure as Chief Justice. Was the point of the one person, one vote rulings simply that of establishing equipopulous districts? A careful reading of these landmark opinions reveals more basic animating purposes, with population equality merely a means to the end.

In a much-quoted passage in the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 ( 1964), Chief Justice Warren asserted that "the achieving of fair and effective representation for all citizens is concededly the basic aim of reapportionment" (pp. 565-566). But what constitutes "fair and effective representation"? The opinions of Warren and others in 1964 suggest at least three interrelated components: political equality of individual voters; majority rule rather than oligarchy; representative institutions that can reflect significant shifts in public opinion.

The Warren Court's approach to reapportionment revealed a profound judicial reassessment of the relationship between citizens and

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