The Commonwealth of Virginia has the same number of Representatives in the US House today as it did in 1990. That may not seem like too big of a deal, but in 1990, less than 6.2 million people lived in Virginia. That number now exceeds 8 million, which equates to a 29% increase in residents per Representative over the last 20 years. That number is only going to worse over the next decade.
So why are we fixed at 435 members in the US House? The only answer is because the Appropriations Act of 1911 says so. When the law was enacted, the US population was at 92.2 million and there were 46 states. We have more than tripled our population since then but we have not increased the number of people who are suppose to represent that population in our government. 435 Representatives may have been fine 100 years ago, but it is not fine now.
Effects of Adding US Representatives:
- Bring Back Citizen Legislators – As the size of congressional districts grow in terms or population, it becomes more and more expensive and challenging to run for this office as an ordinary citizen (which was the original intent for the US House). In order to have a chance at winning, you need support from a national party and/or special interest groups. That support comes with a price in loyalty and inevitably those who win put their party over the constituents. This is supposed to be the people’s representative in the Federal Government and with the fixed number of seats, we dilute the people’s voice and influence with each passing year.
- Increase Minority Representation – Gerrymandering will still be a fact of life, but cutting down the size of congressional districts will make it harder to cut-out/drown-out certain demographic groups.
- Decrease Lobbying – Which is easier, getting 218 people in line or 500, 1000? Lobbying will get a whole lot more expensive and harder to do if you add more votes in the House. Plus, with the effects of point number 1, representatives will need to be more loyal to their constituents than to their Party.
- Decrease Voter Disenfranchisement – How many people feel that their vote counts? A lot don’t and if you feel that your vote does not matter, then you probably won’t vote. Smaller districts make an individual’s vote more valuable.
- Increase Representative Face-time – It is hard to get in touch with these people. It is hard to get these people out to address their constituents. It is pretty easy to get a member of the member of the Virginia Assembly to come speak. Why? Because members of the US House have huge districts, represent a huge number of people, and have a huge number of request on their time. Smaller districts = more face time with elected officials.
- Increase Political Party Competition – Smaller districts and cheaper campaigns would give other political parties and different political ideas a chance to win or influence races. Since that does not occur now, the political establishment has no real motivation to change its ways. Republicans and Democrats work very well together on limiting political competition, which is reason enough for me to want it.
While we are at it, we probably should look at the US Senate as well. Now, I am for restoring the states’ representation in the Federal Government by repealing the 17th Amendment; however, if we are going to keep electing them through popular vote, we may as well keep up with inflation for the same reasons I stated above.
Why not give each state 6 senators? We send the top two vote-getters each election cycle to the Senate. If you don’t like that, then we should at least bump it up to 3. That way we vote for 1 every 2 years.
If we don’t do something about this 435 seat restriction, we will continue tp move further and further away from a democratically elected republic and closer and closer into an American Oligarchy. (If we haven’t done so already)