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Wesberry v. Sanders

Wesberry v. Sanders
Argued November 18, 1963
Decided February 17, 1964
Full case name James P. Wesberry, Jr. et al. v. Carl E. Sanders et al.
Citations 376 U.S. 1 (more)
84 S.Ct. 526; 11 L.Ed.2d 481
Prior history 206 F. Supp. 276 (N.D. Ga. 1962), prob. juris. noted, 374 U.S. 802 (1963).
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
Case opinions
Majority Black, joined by Warren, Douglas, Brennan, White, Goldberg
Concur/dissent Clark
Dissent Harlan
Dissent Stewart
Laws applied
U.S. Const., art. I, § 2.

Wesberry v. Sanders, Georgia. The Court issued its ruling on February 17, 1964. This decision requires each state to draw its U.S. Congressional districts so that they are approximately equal in population.

Nationally, this decision effectively reduced the representation of rural districts in the U.S. Congress. Particularly, the Court held that the population differences among Georgia's congressional districts were so great as to violate the Constitution.

In reaching this landmark decision, the Supreme Court asserted that Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution requires that representatives shall be chosen "by the People of the several States" and shall be "apportioned among the several States...according to their respective Numbers...." These words, the Court held, mean that "as nearly as practicable one man's vote in a congressional election is to be worth as much as another's."

Wesberry and the Court's later "one person, one vote" decisions had an extraordinary impact on the makeup of the House, on the content of public policy, and on electoral politics in general. However, these "one person, one vote" rules do not prevent and have not prevented gerrymandering.

A related case, Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), held that seats in both houses of a bicameral state legislature must also, to satisfy the Equal Protection Clause, represent districts as equal in population as practicably possible. The federal Senate was unaffected since the Constitution explicitly grants each state two senators.


  • Decision 1
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5


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]

See also


  1. ^ a b Congressional Districting - United States Constitution

Further reading

  • Carpenter (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 links

  • Text of Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1 (1964) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia 
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