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80 North Carolina Law Review 1353 (2002)


The conventional wisdom contends that Baker v. Carr did not set down a standard for lower courts to follow. This Article responds to this position. It reaches three conclusions. First, it argues the implicit promise of Baker v. Carr pointed toward a loose, flexible rationality standard for deciding redistricting controversies. Under this approach, states were given much room to enact redistricting plans in accordance to their states' particular needs. Second, the lower courts applied precisely this standard in litigation in the wake of Baker, and did so quite capably. This conclusion responds to those who exhort the imposition of a rigid equipopulation standard in redistricting. The third conclusion is normative in scope. In essence, this Article sides with those who exalt the virtues of standards over rules. Particularly in the redistricting context, this Article concludes that equal protection principles must point toward flexible standards, toward heightened rationality review, and away from an inflexible straightjacket. Put differently, this is to say that the Court got it exactly right in Baker, even in Reynolds v. Sims. In time, however, the Court failed to live up to Baker's implicit promise.