Why Are There Only 435 Representatives in the House?
That’s a good question, and one brought to my attention by a comment on our post covering redistricting reform. So I did a little digging.
Originally, after each census, seats were added to the House. Then, according to the U.S. Census Bureau:
For the 1850 census and later apportionments, the number of seats was determined prior to the final apportionment ("fixed house size")…In 1911, the House size was fixed at 433 with provision for the addition of one seat each for Arizona and New Mexico when they became states… The House size, 435 members, has been unchanged since, except for a temporary increase to 437 at the time of admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states.
Population of the United States in 1910: 91,641,195
Estimated population of the United States in 2005: 296,323,424
This means that U.S. Representatives today represent about three times as many citizens now as when the 435 number was set in 1912. That’s about 440,000 more citizens per Representative.
When you think about it, this is rather absurd. What’s the sense in continuing to shove more people into each district? All that does is decrease accountability and impede the positive power of direct representation. Isn’t it about time we expanded the House of Representatives again? I’m sure they can bring in a few more chairs.
Thanks to Emilie Cole for bringing up this interesting idea.