Expand the House

After the first census in 1790, the United States was a country of roughly four million people, with 105 members of the House of Representatives, each one representing 38,000 people. In 1910, the US was a country of 91 million people, with a 391 member House, each representative representing about 230,000 people. In 2019, the US is a country of just under 330 million people, with a 435 member House, which hasn’t changed since 1913, each representative representing roughly 700,000 people.

Those districts are too big. During the ratification debates, some people actually argued that the House districts were too large given the power the federal government would have. I shudder at what they would say about districts 35 times bigger, especially when the number of representatives hasn’t changed in over a century.

There’s a general rule that the size of your Congress ought to be the cubed root of your population. Most democracies follow that rule, and the US did until the growth of the House froze in 1913. Adding one hundred and fifty seats to the House will get us back to that ratio, and the necessary redistricting will also help make elections more competitive.

With the present maps, only about 85 seats are actually in play in any given election. The other 350 are safe seats (including my home district, which Republicans have held since 1866). According to a New York Times editorial on the topic, adding 150 seats could increase the number of competitive seats threefold, especially in the midwest and California.

As for whether that would make the house too large, I’m not how much more cumbersome a 590 person House would be over our current 435 seat set-up. Germany and Britain have legislative bodies around 600 members, and their governments aren’t anymore unworkable than ours is at 435. And as for cost, each House member gets roughly one million dollars for staff. In a government that spends $4,000,000,000,000 yearly, adding $150,000,000 in new representatives is a small drop in a very large pond.

Step 1 is to increase the size of the House. Step 2 is to adopt Mixed-Member Proportional Voting. To read about that, click this link here.

2 thoughts on “Expand the House

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