The Legacy of 1789

One man, one vote. It seems such an obvious, such a simple principle. What can possibly hinder its implementation in South Africa, where blacks are barred from the exercise of citizenship rights, or Israel, where West Bank Palestinian children take to the streets demanding self-government and civil rights, or New York City, where the Board of Estimates (responsible for zoning, awarding contracts, and helping to draw up the city budget) is elected by a system that gives Staten Island's 377,600 people over six times the representation given to Brooklyn's 2,309,600? In declaring the Board of Estimates unconstitutional, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a lower court decision that found the structure of representation "inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment."

It goes without saying that the Supreme Court has absolutely no constitutional right to involve itself in New York affairs, any more than it had when it interfered in the constitutions of states that gave added weight in their legislatures, by their districting plans, to rural areas. In the early 1960's the Supreme Court struck down any districting plan that was not based on population. As Allan Carlson comments in his recent book, Family Questions: "Freed from the rural yoke, state legislatures in the farm states and South began implementing a new set of values. They tossed out the Blue Laws, lifted restrictions...

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