“One Man/One Vote” Does Not Mean All Votes Are Equal

In a pure democracy, all legally qualified to vote get one vote. Every voter’s vote counts the same as every other voters’ vote. Democracy is often described as the tyranny of the majority over the minority. America’s founders were well aware of that, which is why America is not a democracy; but a republic. The founders, for example, provided for two houses of congress with one, the House of Representatives,  having proportionate representation based on the population of the states and the other, the Senate, having two for each state regardless of population. The idea originally was the members of the House represented the people and the members of the Senate represented the states. The states, after all, were joining in a union to form a federal government for the nation and what might be good for a state or a few states might not be good for the nation.

In general, the states, seeing how the federal government was organized, copied that concept in their state legislature. A state’s legislature would have a lower house, where the members represented districts of about the same population, and an upper house, where each county had the equal representation. In other words, each state was a republic in the same sense that the federal government was a republic.

In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled, in the case, Reynolds v. Sims,  that state legislature districts had to be roughly equal in population. The Court applied the principle of one man, one vote and thereby, the states became democracies. Ironically, the Courts decision has resulted in many Americans, in rural areas, being under represented in their states.

James Huffman, writing for the Hoover Institute, explains how one man, one vote has disenfranchised rural America. He uses three map depictions of the United States to make his case. Figure 1 is the familiar electoral map following the last presidential election. (I don’t know why Florida is not colored blue.) Although 26 states voted Blue and 24 voted Red,  Mr. Huffman points out “that, geographically speaking, more of the country is red than blue.”

Figure 1

  The Disenfranchisement of Rural America by James Huffman

However, Barack Obama won the election by a wide margin in the Electoral College. The reason is clear when the electoral map is distorted to reflect population, as you can see in Figure 2.

Figure 2

 The Disenfranchisement of Rural America by James Huffman

Huffman explains that things look very different if the same Red and Blue are used to reflect the US by counties.

But a third map (Figure 3) showing the nation’s 3,035 counties in the same color scheme reveals that portraying states as either blue or red obscures much of what we might want to know about the states and the voters who inhabit them. On this map, we see that most of the blue states are in fact mostly red. The reality of vast expanses of red in some of the bluest of states should concern us if we truly care about self-governance.

Figure 3

  The Disenfranchisement of Rural America by James Huffman

These three maps tell a damning story for conservatives. Geographically, we may occupy most of each state and the nation, but the Democrats control the high density population centers. Think about states like Nevada, where the legislature is controlled by one county in the south where Las Vegas is, or Illinois where the legislature is controlled by the metropolitan are of Chicago. The state of Alaska is controlled by Fairbanks and the people of west Texas are at the mercy fo Texans in the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth.

And, at the national level, ask yourself: Do your Congressmen and Senators represent your state and you or do they only represent the metropolitan areas of your state? Does the concept of one man, one vote give you equal representation?

In Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court ruled that, although States are sovereign, cities and counties are not. They effectively said that a rural voter does not count as much as a city voter. Mr. Huffman stated my feelings quite well when he said:

Democratic government at its best must be about more than the arithmetic of nose counting. Communities require representation if they are to survive in an ever more centralized world. Not the political interest groups we now call communities, but the real communities in which people raise their children, pursue their livelihoods, and nourish their friendships. These are the communities people call home, and they are slowly decaying with the loss of control over their own destinies.

Can you see, dear friends, that the last vestige of a “republic” that we have, the electoral college, will some day be voted  away by those in cities. America will become a democracy and the mob will rule.

Well, now you know what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?


21 thoughts on ““One Man/One Vote” Does Not Mean All Votes Are Equal

  1. For your info:The voters of Port Chester, New York, went to the polls on Tuesday, June 15 using cumulative voting and early voting. They did so because the Village of Port Chester was ordered to do so by a federal court. According to Amy Ngai of FairVote, this was the first time such methods of voting were used in the State of New York.

    This change in voting methods was in response to a lawsuit filed in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice claiming Port Chester’s at-large method of voting had diluted the voting strength of Latino voters. According to the NYTimes.com coverage of the election, Latinos comprise 49 percent of the approximately 28,000 residents of Port Chester, although not all of them are U.S. citizens.

    This has been bothering me since I first started posting.

    1. To explain: “Cumulative voting” is a method of voting . Under cumulative voting , each voter gets to cast six votes, but not necessarily for six different candidates. He can vote for six different candidates, cast all six votes for one candidate, or any combination in between just as long as he casts no more than six votes for that contest.

      1. I just checked and they will repeat this procedure march 19. It is to insure the Latino candidates get elected. Coming to our town soon. So it still stands.

  2. The Constitution has been deteriorating due to foolish amendments guided by populism and thoughtless members of Congress (Don’t forget: that “The People” – one-man-one-vote – elected). The worse of these modifications to the initial principles of the Constitution have been the 17th Amendment and the 26th Amendment.

  3. We don’t have a republic anymore. This has become a mob rule democracy. Repeat after me. In the present tense, Obama will never be held accountable. Ever. How does that fit?

    Jim I am going to take a long vacation from blogging. Honestly- I think I need a vacation. Maybe I shall come back toward the end of spring. I want to thank you and yours for stopping by. Brian. http://thecivillibertarian.blogspot.com/2013/02/hunter-thompson-had-it-right-fear-and.html

  4. Great post Jim! The founders knew the dangers of democracy and they feared it almost as much as they feared monarchy and that is why they worked so hard to create a republic. I think that when we voted to allow the people to elect the senators we turned America into a democracy–the republic is dead and we are all worse of because of it. I had not heard of Reynolds vs Sms, thanks for educating me on that issue.

    1. Ben Franklin warned Americans that they were getting a republic; but only if they could keep it. I suspect he understood human nature and knew it would only be a matter of time before “We The People” allowed it to become a democracy.

  5. Boy, I’ve learned more from this post and the comments than I have at a blog in a LONG time. EXCELLENT post, Jim. Really excellent.

    Now I have to go be sick …! This article’s info is horrifying and true. By the way, the “tyranny of the majority” is now the tyranny of those Americans too lazy to work, those with their big fat palms out for freebies paid by us……because they vote for Dems and Dems want US TO PAY$$

    SIX VOTES PER PERSON~? ARGH! SO, where are the people in that community who should be COMPLAINING? THIS is what gets me…and where are the Republicans in Congress who should be complaining about every darned thing Obama’s doing? MAN.

    1. It’s two types: the 47% loving the freebies, plus those who are either government employees, or work for crony companies. Add to that the people who think liberal policies are “nice” (because they’re too ignorant to realize they are actually destructive, mostly to the very people they are supposed to help) and you have a witches brew of potential destruction.

  6. It sure is funny how the blue areas are cities made up of wealthier business people with a higher level of education

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