The False Promise of One Person, One Vote

It has now been four decades since the Supreme Court stepped into the political thicket with its groundbreaking series of reapportionment cases. Those cases rather quickly brought about radical changes in the structure of our national, state, and local governments and, in so doing, reshaped the political landscape of the country in many, mostly beneficial, ways. The reapportionment cases also signaled the beginning of a revolution in the way we view the rights associated with meaningful participation in a democratic society, a revolution that continues to this day. We now enjoy a right to vote that is much more comprehensive – both in terms of who has the right to exercise the franchise and what that right entails – than at any other time in our history. Despite this record of success, one of the most important and least controversial aspects of the right to vote – the one person, one vote principle – has never been adequately theorized. Academics, politicians, and the general public have, instead, taken it as an article of democratic faith. We are utterly confident that the one person, one vote principle rests on firm democratic foundations, that it is, in some sense, objective, and that it is a judicially manageable way of parsing out political power. The thesis of this Article is that this confidence is wholly misplaced.