Thursday, June 09, 2005

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.

7 Comments:

At 6:20 PM, Blogger M. Takhallus. said...

You can have more representatives, but you're going to have to compensate by giving up Senators. Which will be no problem once we eliminate a few unecessary states. ND, SD, Nebraska and Iowa can be united to form Cornolia. Arkansas and Oklahoma go to Texas which will continue to be called Texas. Delaware joins Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia to form D.C. Burbia. New Mexico is handed back to Mexico -- if they'll have it. And if they will we try and dump Mississippi and Alabama at the same time. Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah form the single state of Aryana. I figure if we work at it we can get it down to, oh, a dozen states. Think how efficient the Senate would be wih only 24 members.

 
At 6:43 PM, Anonymous Stephen Curtice said...

As a New Mexico resident (and a happy one at that, thank you very much), I am rather surprised by your suggestion that it should be returned to Mexico. Texas might be a little upset by that suggestion, considering that Texas seems to feel that eastern New Mexico already IS a part of Texas, or at least it should be. Indeed, if New Mexico becomes part of Mexico, will Texans need a passport to hop our border in order to ski? Will Californians and New Yorkers need a passport to buy their second home?

Mississippi would probably be upset at loosing its chief competitor for lowest-ranked state in almost every ranking imaginable. (One of my law professors suggested, tongue only partially in cheek, that we should change our state motto from "crescit eundo" to "thank God for Mississippi.")

I must also say that New Mexicans generally feel that most of the country is already of the opinion that New Mexico has been returned to Mexico. The back page of a statewide magazine is titled "One of our fifty is missing," and contains anecdotes involving people not aware that there is, actually, a state between Texas and Arizona. I am reminded of Mr. Burn's comment on one eposide of the Simpsons---"You meen there's a *NEW* Mexico?"

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger emilie said...

I'm not usually one to toot my own horn, but I'd really appreciate credit where credit is due.

Also, what do the Spurs have to do with Centrism and/or politics?

C'mon, guys....

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

Oops, sorry Emilie. I credited you when I wrote it and then managed not to paste it over from the word doc. It's fixed and you're duly credited now.

As for the Spurs. Um, well, most people say Tim Duncan is really a center (although he plays PF), so, there you have it. Center.

 
At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Mark said...

Expanding the House is a great idea, as long as you change the rate of pay to equal the median family income of the state represented plus a $400/month healthcare allowance and the pension of an average airline mechanic or Enron employee.

Good luck getting anyone to take Mississippi. You might get the Mormons to take it if you throw in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and Arkansas, giving them a route to the sea should California ever come to its senses by annexing Nevada and attacking the Moronis.

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger Quidam said...

Anybody interested in understanding why the House only has 435 Representatives should visit thirty-thousand.org. The first amendment proposed in the Bill of Rights document was actually intended to prevent the House from ever being this small. Without such an amendment, the House has become an oligarchy, as many of the framers had feared it would.

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the pay rate of the House Representatives were to be truthfully re-evaluated and their compensation be majorly reduced to reflect the deficit and current state of economy, then and only then would I say sure add more seats. But then I am totally against them flying planes to travel to work, after all we the ordinary people need to pay for our own transportation to work and I think the same should be for those who represent the ordinary people, that would also mean a huge cut to the ridiculous pensions and expense accounts to adjust for the cost of the new seats!

 

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