Time to Increase Representatives in the House

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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)

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6 Responses to Time to Increase Representatives in the House

  1. Henry Ryto says:

    I agree 110% on the need to increase the size of the House of Representatives. In fact, I’ve been arguing it for years.

    The reason for freezing at 435 in 1911 was bigotry. The intent was to try to keep Ellis Island immigrants and their children out of Congress. Today many of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are there. The House should have seats in the 700s.
    In comparison to lower chambers elsewhere in the world, our House districts are huge in size.

    The Founding Fathers sent 12 amendments to the states for the Bill of Rights. 10 were ratified. Their Congressional payraise amendment was ratified in recent history. THEIR 1st Amendment would have automatically increased the size of the House during the early years of the republic, and was the only one not to be ratified. They feared the new Congress could become as distant an elite as the British Parliament was. History has proven they were right.

  2. KBCraig says:

    We should currently have 10,266 members in the House of Representatives (308,000,000/30,000).

    More reps and smaller districts are key to keeping politicians available and accountable. New Hampshire, the 9th-smallest state by population, has the largest legislature in the country, with 400 representatives and 24 senators. As a matter of fact, with just 1.3 million residents, the state has the 4th-largest English-speaking legislature in the entire world (behind the UK, India, and the U.S. Congress).

    With an average district size of about 3,000 and annual salary limited by the state constitution to just $100, there are darn few professional politicians in the NH General Court, and none of them get rich from it.

    There’s a group out there (“Project” something) seeking to restore the 1:30,000 ratio, but I can’t find a link.

  3. Your presumption is that with smaller districts, we would have more accurate “representation.”

    As long as there are millions of dollars in play from multinational corporate interests, there is no incentive for those in Congress to pay any attention to the citizens. Their mission, in many cases, is self aggrandizement and enrichment, not service to their constituents.

    Changing our current election law would do the most to strengthen the representative relationship between citizens and their Representatives.

    If we want the voices of the citizens of each district to be more clearly heard, we must take the following steps:

    1. Eliminate corporate contributions. Corporations are profit making entities whose by-laws mandate that they expend money only with the expectation of a return on that investment. This is perceived by the citizens as corruption.

    2. Eliminate PAC contributions.

    3. Restrict contributions to come only from citizens whose PRIMARY residence is within the district.

    4. Cap the amount to the federal limit for an individual contribution.

    These reforms will amplify the voices of the citizens who reside in the respective districts, and restore the representative relationship between our elected officials and the citizens who reside in their areas of representation.

    • Rich Roberts says:

      We have campaign reform after every election and it doesn’t have any effect because the things you mention are treating symptons and not root causes.
      If we make a law eliminating this or capping that, history has shown some smart guys will find a way around it and then we will come up with some new set of laws to limit that new thing they come up with and the cycle repeats.

      The only way to limit money flowing into campaigns and elections is to fix the reason so many dollars come into play, that is to crush the ROI of those looking to peddle such power.

      The only way to do this is to decentralize political power.

      Increasing the number of legislators is one way of doing this. It makes it more expensive to lobby since there are more people you need to get in line.
      The other is to substantially reduce the power of the Federal Government. If the Feds don’t have the power to pick who wins and who loses, then there is not reason to spend money lobbying and buying campaigns.

      I favor doing both.

    • Henry Ryto says:

      Tyler,

      In any election, the smaller the district, the less effective media buys are. With such, most people seeing your ads couldn’t vote in the race.

  4. Don Tabor says:

    I certainly agree in principle that smaller districts would improve representation.

    Rather than setting a fixed size, and leave future generations with the same problem, perhaps we should set a formula, much like tax brackets are set to adjust with inflation.

    I would suggest that at each census, the target size of a district be set at one-half the population of the least populous State.

    That would give Wyoming 2 districts and the rest of the States a proportional number.

    Such a formula would solve the problem permanently, whether we grow in population or diminish.

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