Baker V. Carr

What About It?

Charles Baker (plaintiff) was upset at the state of Tennessee for failing to redistrict the voting lines in over 60 years. He sued Joe Carr (defendant) as the Secretary of State for Tennessee. Even though he was not the person that drew the lines, it was his ultimate responsibility for them. Baker felt that his right to "equal protection under the law" in the fourteenth amendment was being taken away. This case was appealed from the Tennessee District Court in 1960 and was heard by the supreme court in 1961.

The original case was dismissed by the Tennessee District Court because they stated that the plaintiff did not have the means to sue Carr as this was not in his jurisdiction. This was false information. The Supreme Court examined this case on April 19th and 20th, 1961 and was reargued in October of the same year. The final decision was made on March 26th, 1962. Justice William J. Brennan wrote the opinion for the case. The opinion stated that the district court was wrong to dismiss the case when they knew Carr had jurisdiction over it. The fourteenth amendment had not been equally applied. The vote ratio was 6:2 with six votes for Baker and two votes against him.

This case influenced how powerful one vote was. The saying "one person, one vote" became very popular after this case as rural parts of many states became more equal in elections instead of having those same rural towns dominate the voting booths compared to urban cities. Many other cases were influenced by this case including Reynolds V. Sims.