Baker v. Carr


Plaintiff sued the Secretary of State of Tennessee for the legislature’s failure to redraw legislative voting districts since 1901.  He alleged that such a failure was a violation of Tennessee’s Constitution because they were supposed to do so every ten years.  He argued that populations had shifted greatly since then and as a result equal protection rights were violated.  He claimed to be personally injured because his vote, which occurred in a city, was diluted due to the entrance of much of the population into the city.  He sought a court order which would disallow future elections until the correct redistricting had been undertaken.  The district court did not agree and held that such a decision belonged to the state legislature.  More precisely, the court held that the question before the court was a political one and was not justicable.  Plaintiff appealed.


Where a case involves legislative apportionment, is the issue a political one such that it is not appropriately heard by the courts?


Yes.  The 14th amendment ensures the equal protection of the laws and it is appropriate for both the federal courts to hear a state action regarding legislative apportionment. “A citizen’s right to a vote free of arbitrary impairment by state action has been judicially recognized as a right secured by the Constitution, when such impairment resulted from dilution by a false tally.”

The question before the court was not determined to be a political one because it passed the six part test expounded by the court.  Most importantly, it did not interfere with the court’s “legislative judgment.”

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