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Law School Case Brief

Wesberry v. Sanders - 376 U.S. 1, 84 S. Ct. 526 (1964)


U.S. Const. art. I gives persons qualified to vote a constitutional right to vote and to have their votes counted. Not only can this right to vote not be denied outright, it cannot, consistently with Article I, be destroyed by alteration of ballots, or diluted by stuffing of the ballot box.


Plaintiffs James P. Wesberry, Jr., and Candler Crim, Jr., who were qualified voters in the State of Georgia, resided in a certain congressional district with a population that was two to three times greater than that of other congressional districts in the State. Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit in federal district court asserting that because there was only one congressman for each district, their vote was debased as a result of the state's apportionment statute and the state's failure to realign the congressional districts. They also sought to invalidate the apportionment statute and enjoin defendants S. Ernest Vandiver, the Governor of the State of Georgia, and Ben W. Fortson, Jr., the Secretary of the State of Georgia, from conducting elections under the statute. The district court dismissed the complaint for non-justiciability and want of equity because it raised a political question. Plaintiffs appealed. 


Did the court have jurisdiction over the subject matter of plaintiff's suit that challenged the validity of the state's apportionment statute?




The Supreme Court of the United States held that the district court had jurisdiction over plaintiffs' action because debasement of the right to vote as a result of a state congressional apportionment law was justiciable and not subject to dismissal for "want of equity" as raising a wholly "political" question." The Court further held that the apportionment statute was invalid because it abridged the requirement of U.S. Const. art. I, § 2., that members of congress be chosen "by the People of the several States," which required that as nearly as practicable one person's vote in a congressional election had to be worth as much as another person's vote.

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