Court Rules Legislative Districts Must Be Relatively Equal In Size

1962

At issue in Baker v. Carr is Tennessee’s use of 60-year-old district boundaries for the election of state legislative seats, despite the fact that the districts no longer reflected the distribution of the population. By maintaining old district boundaries, the state allotted rural citizens, who were mostly white, greater proportional representation than their counterparts in the growing cities, where ethnic minorities and blacks primarily lived.

Charles Baker, who filed the lawsuit against Joe Carr, the state official in charge of elections, said the state’s failure to break up growing districts diluted his vote in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Reversing its earlier ruling in Colegrove v. Green, the Supreme Court agrees that the issue could be resolved by the courts rather than leaving the matter solely in the hands of state legislatures. After Baker, a number of lawsuits contest legislative redistricting.