Reynolds v. Sims
379 U.S. 870 (1964)

  • The Alabama Constitution apportioned representatives to the State legislature based on county. Since some counties had a lot more residents than other counties did, that meant that a representative from a rural district would represent the interests of a few residents, while those from urban districts represented the interests of a lot of residents.
  • Sims and some other Alabama residents sued, claiming that the apportionment was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
    • Basically, they argued that a few hundred people in two rural counties would get more votes in the Legislature than thousands of people living in one urban county.
      • That’s known as malapportionment.
  • The US Supreme Court struck down the Alabama apportionment plan.
    • The US Supreme Court found that, based on the Equal Protection Clause, everyone’s vote should count for roughly the same amount. Therefore all voting districts have to be roughly equal in proportion.
    • Alabama had argued that their apportionment plan was designed to balance the interests of urban cities with those of rural farms. However, the Court found that, “Legislators represent people, not trees or acres. Legislators are elected by voters, not farms or cities or economic interests.”
  • This case established the principle of “one person, one vote.”
    • Btw, Justice Earl Warren later wrote that this was the most important decision he ever made on the Supreme Court.