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History Student Otto Sutton Receives Wortman Scholarship

December 1, 2023

Otto Sutton
Otto Sutton

Maxwell student Otto Sutton, also a 2023-24 Syracuse University Remembrance Scholar, received the Wortman Scholarship from the History Department. Funding for the scholarship has been generously provided by Marlene Stein Wortman ’58 B.A. (Hist). Sutton will use the funding to conduct archival research in Washington, D.C.


Thesis Summary

In the 1960s, under the auspices of the Warren Court, the United States Supreme Court took up and handed down decisions in a series of cases that are today referred to as the Apportionment Cases. This series of three cases, initiated in 1961 by Baker v. Carr (1961) and followed by Wesberry v. Sanders (1964) and Reynolds v. Sims (1964), articulated and applied the principle of ‘one person, one vote.’ In doing so, the Supreme Court initiated a significant shift in the manner in which legislative districts throughout the United States were apportioned.

This thesis focuses on the intense legal and political battles over the shape of American democracy during the 1960s, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s redistricting decisions. By establishing the principle of “one person, one vote,” the Court sought to make the operation of the American political system more consistent with the democratic principles espoused in Cold War public diplomacy.

Though less well-known than laws barring the disenfranchisement of Black voters and rulings preventing the dilution of majority-minority districts, decisions regarding apportionment—the geographic distribution of legislative districts— prompted a similarly intense reaction from politicians representing rural communities. The leader of these critics was Everett McKinley Dirksen, a U.S. senator from Illinois and the Republican Senate Minority Leader.

The thesis additionally seeks to understand the battle in the two stages that it played out, first in the halls of Congress, and then in an effort to call an Article V convention. Particular attention and examination will be paid to the latter stage of this battle and backlash, seeking to understand and delineate the dominant factor(s) that snuffed out these challenges to the Apportionment Cases. 

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