The False Promise of One Person, One Vote

56 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2004

See all articles by Grant M. Hayden

Grant M. Hayden

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law


This article challenges the theoretical foundations of the right to cast an equally weighted vote. That right, most elegantly captured in the phrase one person, one vote, was at the heart of the early reapportionment cases and has since become one of the hallmarks of democracy. One of the principal reasons for the success of the one person, one vote standard is that it appears to be a neutral or objective way of parsing out political power. Drawing on recent work in philosophy and economics on the nature of interpersonal utility comparisons, I demonstrate the normative character of the standard. I conclude that this well-settled legal principal is based upon a false promise of objectivity, one that has now come back to haunt us by divorcing the law from the reality of preference aggregation and preventing the development of a more complete theory of voting rights.

Keywords: Voting Rights, Equal Protection, Interpersonal Utility Comparisons

Suggested Citation

Hayden, Grant M., The False Promise of One Person, One Vote. Michigan Law Review, Vol. 102, p. 213, 2003. Available at SSRN:

Grant M. Hayden (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

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