One Person, One Vote

This video and related lesson plan can be to help teach high school students about how the principle of one person, one vote emerged from a series of landmark decisions. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer and other experts discuss the implications of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, including the issue of redistricting.

The video is an excellent case study about how seemingly small points of law can have major impact. The video contextualizes the principle of equal protection through both documents and interviews — and is accompanied by an easily accessible pdf download of a lesson plan for teachers to use.

How do you use it?

This resource is very engaging way for a high school audience to understand the principle of the Equal Protection clause and the concept of "One Person, One Vote."  The video could be used as the introductory assignment in advance of a judge coming to give a presentation or for a classroom visit to a courtroom, or it could be used during a presentation to help break up a "lecture" on the same material or to reinforce information presented. 

The related lesson plan serves as a teacher's guide and includes handouts, questions, and sample answers to those questions.  Key questions during the film also help students stay engaged with the film and the issues it raises.

The video is quite long at almost a half-hour, and so judges might consider whether to just show excerpts, or tie their speech into the video that would be shown in advance or after their talk. 

The Annenberg Classroom website is a multimedia environment that gathers together videos, lesson plans, current news and interactive games.  As the site says:  "This website connects our award-winning, comprehensive curriculum on the Constitution and its amendments to daily civics news and student discussion. And when we say "connects," we really mean it. Twice daily, our nonpartisan writers sift through national and local news and select current events expressly for social studies classrooms. And twice weekly, they write an article on a portion of this news with links to our multimedia curriculum. You can use these articles—we call them “Speak Outs”—in your class or right here online. When your students “Speak Out” at, they participate in a moderated, national dialogue of their peers.  We publish up to 10 news stories a day, many media resources each year, and at least two Speak Outs each week during the school year."

Other Resources on the Annenberg Classroom Site:
Because of the range of resources on the site, judges and other presenters might find it valuable to browse deeper into the site to determine if there are other resources of value for a particular presentation.  There is special depth of curricular materials relating to the Constitution and the Courts.  For example, a related video on the 14th Amendment can be found here.  Links to organizations interested in the courts can be found here.  The homepage of the site can be found here.  All the videos on the site are gathered here.

Who is the audience?

The concepts explored in this video are quite sophisticated — and there is a significant amount of history involved — so the intended audience is older than a first glance might expect.  The focus and specificity of video make it especially appropriate for high school and older students, albeit the material and style of presentation is sufficiently engaging that younger students could use the video and be taught from the lesson plan with some direction.

What other resources will complement this?

  1. Interactive Diagram of the Federal Court System
  2. What the Federal Courts Do
  3. Federal Courts & What They Do  
  4. Supreme Decision