Vanderbilt Law Review


Larry Alexander

First Page



I still don't get it. I can see why as partisans of this or that set of policies we will still care about how district lines are drawn, even if each district has an equal number of voters. We might wish to maximize black representation. We might wish to elect Democrats, or liberals, or incumbents. What I cannot see, however, is why the Constitution, or a supposedly nonpartisan measure like the Voting Rights Act,I should be enlisted in these partisan battles.

Professor Karlan does an admirable job of exploring whether and to what extent blacks benefit politically from being concentrated in a small number of districts rather than being spread more thinly among more districts. I cannot gainsay anything she says. My problem with what she says is not that I think she is wrong, but that I do not understand the normative principles from which she is proceeding and that animate her concern. To put it simply: Why should the law care whether blacks-or Democrats, or anyone else--benefit from a * Warren Distinguished Professor of Law, University of San Diego. I would like to thank Professor Barry Friedman, Ellen Armentrout, and all the members of the Vanderbilt Law Review who helped organize and run this Symposium. I would also like to thank the Florida Law Review for granting me permission to borrow heavily from my article Lost in the Political particular way of drawing district lines, so long as the principle of "one-person, one-vote" is respected?

The bogey here, I take it, is something called "vote dilution." The drawing of district lines matters, we are told, because not every "one-person, one-vote" system is kosher. Some systems that formally comply with "one-person, one-vote" involve "diluting" the votes of some groups, while others do not. This dilution undermines the equality of the franchise that "one-person, one-vote" is meant to establish.