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Context of 'June 15, 1964: Supreme Court Applies ‘One Person, One Vote’ to Legislative Bodies'

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In a landmark ruling, the US Supreme Court, in the case of Baker v. Carr, finds that courts can order state legislatures to redraw district boundaries to ensure citizens’ political rights. The case pertains directly to Tennessee, which still uses 60-year-old district boundaries that give minorities less representation than would be the case if districts were redrawn to more equally represent populations. Hence, Tennessee has an outsized white majority in its state legislature. The Court rules that courts can order such districts to be redrawn. The ruling is a major advancement for minority voting rights. [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The US Supreme Court, in the case of Gray v. Sanders, rules that Georgia’s “county unit” system of voting is unconstitutional, and codifies the concept of “one person, one vote.” Georgia’s “county unit” voting system is unfairly weighed to maximize votes from largely white rural areas and to dilute votes from urban districts with larger minority populations. Georgia voter James Sanders brought a suit challenging the system; his suit named James H. Gray, the chairman of the State Executive Committee of the Democratic Party, as one of the defendants. The Court agreed to hear this case though it had refused to hear previous challenges to the “county unit” system in the past. The Court rules 8-1 that the system violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants equal protection under the law. In the majority opinion, Justice William O. Douglas writes, “The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments can mean only one thing—one person, one vote.” The lone dissenter, Justice John Marshall Harlan II, says the case should be sent back to lower courts for retrial. [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]

Entity Tags: William O. Douglas, James H. Gray, James Sanders, US Supreme Court, John Marshall Harlan II

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The US Supreme Court applies the concept of “one person, one vote” (see March 18, 1963) to legislative bodies. The Court, ruling in Reynolds v. Sims, forces Alabama to redraw legislative boundaries that had remained unchanged since 1900 (see March 26, 1962). The Court rules that “the right to exercise the franchise in a free and unimpaired manner is preservative of other basic civil and political rights,” finding that Alabama’s legislative boundaries unfairly underrepresented minority voters. [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court upholds its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling (see January 22, 1973), and forbids states from banning abortions. However, by a 7-2 vote, the Court says states may raise new obstacles for women seeking to end their pregnancies. [CBS News, 4/19/2007]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: US Health Care

The Supreme Court refuses to hear a petition to reopen the 1953 state secrets case US v Reynolds (see February 26, 2003). It issues a one-sentence ruling: “The motion for leave to file a writ of error coram nobis is denied.” Plaintiff Judy Palya Loether says: “Maybe the law isn’t about right or wrong. The concept that the government lied to the Supreme Court (see February 2000) seemed to me a terrible thing to do. It appears that the justices were not as appalled as I was.” Further attempts to reopen the case in lower courts will also fail. [Siegel, 2008, pp. 267-298]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Judy Palya Loether

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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