Should America Expand the Size of Congress?

Dalton Conley and Jacqueline Stevens make a pretty compelling argument in a recent NY Times op-ed:

With the Senate preparing to debate filibuster reform, now is a good time to consider a similarly daunting challenge to democratic representation in the House: its size. It’s been far too long since the House expanded to keep up with population growth and, as a result, it has lost touch with the public and been overtaken by special interests.

Indeed, the lower chamber of Congress has had the same number of members for so long that many Americans assume that its 435 seats are constitutionally mandated.

But that’s wrong: while the founders wanted to limit the size of the Senate, they intended the House to expand based on population growth. Instead of setting an absolute number, the Constitution merely limits the ratio of members to population. “The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every 30,000,” the founders wrote. They were concerned, in other words, about having too many representatives, not too few.

When the House met in 1787 it had 65 members, one for every 60,000 inhabitants (including slaves as three-fifths of a person). For well over a century, after each census Congress would pass a law increasing the size of the House.

But after the 1910 census, when the House grew from 391 members to 433 (two more were added later when Arizona and New Mexico became states), the growth stopped. That’s because the 1920 census indicated that the majority of Americans were concentrating in cities, and nativists, worried about of the power of “foreigners,” blocked efforts to give them more representatives.

By the time the next decade rolled around, members found themselves reluctant to dilute their votes, and the issue was never seriously considered again…

[Read the rest at the NY Times]

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  • MoralDrift

    Sounds like meaningful and reasonable reform! It’ll never happen!

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like meaningful and reasonable reform! It’ll never happen!

  • Alarmar1

    The future war lords won’t allow it.

  • Alarmar1

    The future war lords won’t allow it.

  • Guest

    What a fucking joke…

    Due to the 2010 census, several states lost or gained reps.

  • FREEKpowerULTD.

    Why don’t we just get rid of all of them instead. I understand the logic in a democratic process but, i honestly cant bear the thought of more of the bastards.

  • FREEKpowerULTD.

    Why don’t we just get rid of all of them instead. I understand the logic in a democratic process but, i honestly cant bear the thought of more of the bastards.

  • Leif Jones

    Should America Expand the Size of Congress? Yes, expand it to 300 million members and we could have a democracy on top of our constitutional republic. Citizenship by proxy doesn’t work.

  • Leif Jones

    Should America Expand the Size of Congress? Yes, expand it to 300 million members and we could have a democracy on top of our constitutional republic. Citizenship by proxy doesn’t work.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Can you imagine the size of congress if we still used 1/60,000 as ratio for representation? We’d have over 5,000 overpaid gasbags sucking off the rest of our collective tits…as well as fucking up everything they touch. I’d be all in favor of redistricting in a non partisan fashion (as if even that could be managed in the current climate!) and opening new seats based on realistic changes in populace…but the tragedy is that the people who would theoretically be in charge of the process are already part of the problem. Ugh. Democracy-fail is never pretty.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Can you imagine the size of congress if we still used 1/60,000 as ratio for representation? We’d have over 5,000 overpaid gasbags sucking off the rest of our collective tits…as well as fucking up everything they touch. I’d be all in favor of redistricting in a non partisan fashion (as if even that could be managed in the current climate!) and opening new seats based on realistic changes in populace…but the tragedy is that the people who would theoretically be in charge of the process are already part of the problem. Ugh. Democracy-fail is never pretty.

  • Synapse

    Wait so according to the 1 per 30K figured, a modern house size should be 10,000? That’s simply not a workable size for an arm of the government to have any meaningful decision making ability.

    As others said, it’s a joke. Several states reevaluated their population and adjusted their house representation accordingly in the past decade.

  • Synapse

    Wait so according to the 1 per 30K figured, a modern house size should be 10,000? That’s simply not a workable size for an arm of the government to have any meaningful decision making ability.

    As others said, it’s a joke. Several states reevaluated their population and adjusted their house representation accordingly in the past decade.

    • Haystack

      They aren’t suggesting 30k. It can be any number we want it to be.

      The census adjusts congressional districts based on the representative:population ratio we’ve been using for the last 200 years or so. All the article suggests is that we can adjust that ratio; it’s not a fixed number.

      Doing so would actually allow third parties a chance for representation.

  • Haystack

    They aren’t suggesting 30k. It can be any number we want it to be.

    The census adjusts congressional districts based on the representative:population ratio we’ve been using for the last 200 years or so. All the article suggests is that we can adjust that ratio; it’s not a fixed number.

    Doing so would actually allow third parties a chance for representation.

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