Reynolds v. Sims is a 1964 Supreme Court case holding that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires seats in a state legislature to be apportioned so that one vote equals one person residing in each state legislative district. Find the full text here.
In the case, plaintiffs in Jefferson County, Alabama sued the state in 1961, alleging that Alabama’s continued use of the 1900 federal census denied them equal protection of the laws, as required by the Fourteenth Amendment. They argued that population growth in the state had been uneven between 1900–1960, so the apportion based on the 1900 census skewed the distribution of representation in the state legislature. The Court, recognizing the fundamental nature of the right to vote, applied a strict scrutiny review to any restrictions on an individual’s right to vote, such as the one here. The Court found Alabama’s legislative districting scheme here offensive to the Constitution because it infringed on that right by apportioning the same number of representatives to unequal numbers of constitutes. The practice effect of this, the Court recognized, was the overvaluing of votes of citizens in one district, and the undervaluing of citizens in another district.
[Last updated in December of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]