Let me give you a couple of facts that may surprise you.
The United States currently has 435 members in the House of Representatives and 100 Senators to represent a population of about 316 million people (and growing) or about one representative for every 585,000 people.
In the late 1700s our population was estimated at five million.
At that time (1787) Congress passed a law, which provided representation of one per 30,000 people.
About one hundred years ago (1911) Congress made the last official changes in the number of House representatives allowed by setting them at the number still in effect today, 435.
With today’s population at more than three times that of 100 years ago, our representation has now become totally out of sync with the original idea of a Congress directly responsible to the people.
In 1789, as a result of prodding by James Madison during the development of the “Bill of Rights,” he encouraged the proposal of 12 amendments to the constitution, the first of which was to allow the number of representations to increase with population gains and not to allow more than one representative per 50,000. That amendment did not pass.
The only change to our representation since 1911 has been to the Senate, which allows two senators from each state and has increased only as the country has grown in number of states.
The last state to join the US was Hawaii in the 1950s, bringing that total to 100.
According to the U.S. Constitution, the State of Florida (based on the 30,000 limit) should have 600 U.S. Representatives. By the same token, our federal legislative branch would have over 6,000 members.
Sounds a little ludicrous, doesn’t it?
The use of gerrymandering creates the biggest foe to any increase in the number of representatives.
Typically politicians, especially those in charge (or even those that hope to be in charge one day), oppose any changes in the
ratio of representatives to voters.
Their opposition is based on not wanting the districts smaller, which in essence makes it harder to gerrymander and therefore harder to control the vote based along party lines.
Considering the current state of politics, changing the House of Representatives would be extremely complicated, no matter how you went about increasing the number of representatives.
One solution I would suggest would be to use the same number of representatives as the Electoral College (535) divided exactly the same way.
Once that was done then the next step would be to increase the number (or decrease) the number by one percent every ten years based on the Census population count of each state.
In effect, this solution would give Americans 688 total representation.
And although it is a long way from perfect it is at least a start.
Next week I plan to write about our local representation and how it drives decisions.
I will end this by saying that our government would not be here today if early Americans (at that time British Colonists) had not felt that they were not being represented fairly.