legislative apportionment, subdivision of a political body (e.g., a state or province) for the purpose of electing legislative representatives. In the United States, the Constitution requires that Congressional representatives be elected on the basis of population. State legislatures, not bound by the constitutional strictures, were apportioned according to considerations including population, as well as geographic size, special interests, and political divisions such as counties or towns. This often resulted in unrepresentative, minority control of the state legislature. The state legislatures were responsible for drawing up districts for the purpose of electing representatives to Congress. Gerrymandering often resulted (see gerrymander). In some states legislatures did not redistrict, despite population shifts, for as many as sixty years. This was the case until 1962 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Baker v. Carr that a voter could challenge legislative apportionment on the grounds that it violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Within nine months of the decision suits for reapportionment were brought in at least 34 states. In 1964, in Reynolds v. Sims, the Supreme Court ruled that population, i.e., the one-person, one-vote principle, must be the primary consideration in apportionment plans for both houses of state legislatures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.