Periodic discordance between vote equality and representational equality in the united states

Sarah K. Cowan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    American democracy has two central values that are often in tension: vote equality, that each vote has equal influence, and representational equality, that each elected official represents equal numbers of people. The electoral standard of "one person, one vote" ensures representational equality, and that often ensures vote equality. This relationship fails, however, under certain demographic conditions, namely, when a large, non-enfranchised population resides unevenly across jurisdictions. Then, representational equality is preserved and vote equality is violated. Prior to women's suffrage, for example, western states had relatively fewer women than the remainder of the country, contributing to gross vote inequality, though rectified through extension of the franchise. Given recent high rates of immigration to some states, I ask whether the two values are in tension. I find that they are, and quantify the electoral consequences of this disjuncture at 13 House seats in 2010.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)442-453
    Number of pages12
    JournalSociological Science
    StatePublished - Aug 19 2015


    • Apportionment
    • Enfranchisement
    • Supreme Court of the United States

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


    Dive into the research topics of 'Periodic discordance between vote equality and representational equality in the united states'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this