The Census Is a Reminder of Why We Need a Bigger Congress

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The preliminary 2020 census count has been released, and as usual, it means that when it comes to congressional representation, some states will gain and some will lose. Illinois is one of seven states that will suffer a shrinkage of their House delegations. But the zero-sum nature of this game is not a necessary feature, and it’s not a good one.

The reason states are pitted against one another every 10 years is that the nation’s population has steadily grown but the House has not. It has been frozen at 435 seats since 1911, even though the number of people in America has more than tripled. Back then, the typical member represented 212,000 people. Today, it’s 761,000.

The current number has no basis in the Constitution. The framers meant for the House to grow over time, and it did — from 141 in 1803 to 293 in 1873 to 357 in 1893. The only constitutional limit is that there can be no more than one representative per 30,000 people. James Madison wrote confidently that “the number of representatives will be augmented from time to time in the manner provided by the Constitution.”
The author of the Federalist No. 52 (either Madison or Alexander Hamilton) said that each member should have “an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.” There is nothing intimate about a relationship with 761,000 people. It may be no coincidence that only 37% of Americans know the name of their representative.
Some districts are physically enormous. New Mexico has one that occupies 71,000 square miles. Texas has one that stretches across 550 miles. But nothing tops the one that is the size of Alaska — because it comprises all of that state, which is 2,261 miles wide. Six other states have just one representative.

Expanding the House would mean members would be better able to serve the needs of their constituents, because they wouldn’t have so many to serve.

Helping people grapple with problems related to the federal government, such as getting veterans benefits or securing Paycheck Protection Program loans, makes up the bulk of what occupies congressional offices.

Less populous districts would also make it easier for members of Congress to get to know the communities and people they represent, and vice versa. It would provide fast-growing states with additional seats without depriving slower-growing states of the ones they have.

In the latest YouGov poll, only 25% of Americans approve of how Congress is doing its job. I know what you're thinking: If I don't like the people in Congress, why would I want more of them?

But more House seats would reduce the size of districts, making them more cohesive. Rural voters would be less likely to be lumped with distant urbanites. Minority populations would have a better chance of electing people attuned to their particular interests. Campaigns would be less expensive. Who knows? Better people might get elected.

Expanding the House would align the Electoral College more closely with public sentiment. Each state gets as many electoral votes as it has members of Congress. Increasing the number of House seats would mean more populous states would get a say in choosing the president that is more proportionate to the number of voters they have. It would reduce the grossly outsized voting strength of small states.

You might assume that a bigger House would be impossibly unwieldy. But other countries have lawmaking bodies that function well despite being much larger than ours.

The German Bundestag seats 709 people. The 650 members of Britain's House of Commons serve a country the size of Oregon. Each member represents about 100,000 people, less than one-seventh the number represented by the average U.S. House member. No other wealthy democracy has as high a ratio of citizens to national legislators as we do.

How big should the U.S. go? Under an option that says no district shall have more people than the least populous state (Wyoming, with 576,851 people), the House would grow to 545 members. An expansion on that scale would bring in a lot of fresh faces and ideas while changing the dynamics of a body that has gotten too far from the American people.

If the House had grown with the population as the framers expected, it would have 11,000 members. That would be too many. But 435 is way too few.

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36 thoughts on “The Census Is a Reminder of Why We Need a Bigger Congress”

  1. House members don’t give a rats ass about their constituents , they only care about getting reelected and keeping their taxpayer paid golden goose alive. More House members would mean more government, more and bigger government, more taxes, more corruption and more Marxist democrats.
    We don’t need more government we need less government.
    Let’s elect the bums every 4 years not two years, then maybe they’d spend more time taking care of taxpayers and less time raising money and less time trying to get reelected.

  2. I think it’s a sign how we need to burn the American Patriot to the ground. It is nothing more then a Liberal sound piece that have people with severe mental illness running it. To stupid to think about consequences.

  3. Makes sense but I offer these:

    Combine like districts
    Merge like districts.
    Workshare in those areas
    Cut staffing, add staffing
    Revise for migration IE Blue States to Red States.
    Cut DC admin workload
    Alter Blue States.

  4. I call for the American Patriots to be burned to the ground, with all the staff in the building. Lolk, they want more government. We know more government control is wastful. So burn American Patriots down. ANTIFA? BLM?

  5. It appears that many make an effort to get into congress just for the perks such as becoming a millionaire like Waters and Pelosi. Many of them in the House especially the democrats only care about their constituents during election time. We don’t need more members of the House what we need are more people in the House that think about more than just themselves.

    1. This article has many misconceptions in it, do not take much of it to heart. The Federal Government elected official are representatives of their constituents and should not be working to ´get things´ for their constituents they should be working to help the nation as a whole.

    2. We need new people for sure, but younger, NO. Government keeps getting worse and worse with each new generation. Remember many of the people there now were a product of the 60’s youth and as time has gone on we have abortion up to the last day, gay marriage, young people wanting socialism/communism because they think sucking on the government’s tit will be as good for them as living with mommy and daddy their first 30+ years with free everything.

  6. Yes what you really mean is lets get more Demarcates in the house so you can maintain control. Since when has the House of Representatives done anything to represent the people?

    It has been controlled by the Dem, for years, and now with the Senate 50/50 and the White house with crazy joe, and Harris the true colors are showing through.

    So don’t try to spin this more house seats as a benefit to the American People, it’s a benefit to the democratic party.
    And the more illegal’s you can bring in to this Country O how grate it will be for the Dem. to try to maintain control,
    but how sad for the American People!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. I agree with those who say we need less reps and a longer term (4 year term limit). I suggest Congressional reps be elected by a county rep elected by county US citizens. The number of US counties must be Constitutionally frozen at the current level, currently at 65,000+. The states’ county reps would elect a state rep to congress – each state gets one rep to keep votes equal among the states. No matter what the population of a county is, it would have an equal say among all other counties within its state. This way population centers would not outweigh rural districts on votes.

    I disagree with Steve Chapman on increasing the number of house reps especially based on population numbers. Anytime a system uses population as its basis for representation, we have anomalies like Virginia where the blue population centers carry a basically red state toward socialist/communist policies. Don’t fall for the specious argument that “It would reduce the grossly outsized voting strength of small states” – less populated areas have been at the mercy of more populated areas since day one, a flaw in the design of our checks and balances system.

    Less is more in this case.

    1. There are several answers but NOT MORE representatives.
      There should be TERM LIMITS OF TWO TERMS! Staying too long just means they become swamp creatures!
      There should be LESS benefits such as NO RETIREMENT BENEFITS and representatives should NOT
      get special HEALTH INSURANCE. They should be like any other average American. IF they want
      GREAT health insurance, THEY should be responsible for seeking it out and purchasing it on their own
      dime, NOT the American taxpayer dime.
      STOCK OPTIONS should be repealed as they only cause insider trading and corruption.
      If the constitution were followed, they would only need to meet a couple of times per year and the representative could have a real full time job. Thus we should only pay their expenses esp for those who are already rich and have 3 homes like Bernie Sanders or Maxine Waters. And NO JUNKET TRIPS on taxpayer dime!

    2. I would go further to say that the United States is supposed to be a collection of societies where rural areas have a stronger voice per capital is a feature and not a defect of the union. NPV advocates make up this utopian ideal that every one voter ought to have an equal voice in a more direct election of a president. At first, state legislatures choose the electors for the Electoral College. Even if a majority of electors cannot be had, each state gets two votes regardless of population size of the state in a runoff in choosing a president. In all, much of what is blamed in public eye at the feet of the President is not even his job. There is nothing more disingenuous than demanding and blaming action for what is not their job to do.

  8. House members are NOT supposed to ´serve the needs of their constituents´, they are supposed to represent the people to in a way that serves the nation as a whole! NIG DIFFERENCE!

  9. We don’t need more do nothings Congress. The ones we have now gust need to do there jobs and stop the constant BS. We need term limits for congress, maybe 8 years.

  10. No way, there’s actually too many members of the House of Representatives, 435 members, plus several other non-voting members, make decisions a cattle-call. It takes about 20 years of senority before a Congressional representative can have any influence on what goes on in Congress. Many young representatives leave Congress after 3 terms because of this fact. Five years in Congress gets you a federal pension and lifetime medical coverage.

  11. What a load of sanctimonious, self-serving claptrap. All this article is endorsing is changing the total number of members of the House of Representatives; not doing anything about the proportions of those numbers. As for members getting to better know their constituencies, when have typical politicians paid attention to anything other than the size of the donation coming from an individual? Sure, if something so egregious happens that there arises a public outcry, a politician will then change heading to avoid being caught up in the controversy. The very last thing we need in this country is more government intervention in our lives with regulation, taxation, “well-meaning” laws and actions taken “for our own good” because we are too stupid to make up our own minds. Just tell us the truth (unlikely, I know) and let us direct our own lives.

  12. Congress, for the most part, is out of touch with constituents because they are not interested in serving but rather in gaining power. They hole up in the D.C. Club and enjoy their privileges such as salons, fitness rooms, plush offices, etc. Those that still maintain a mansion in their districts protect themselves from the “peasants” with elaborate walls, fences, security systems, and armed guards. They exempt themselves from many of the laws they pass.

    If you want a more responsive Congress, don’t add to the numbers of people that tax-payers will be forced to subsidize for the rest of their lives. Instead, in this day of Zoom Meetings, close down the capital and insist that every Congress person move back home and live and office in their district. This will give their constituents far easier access to the deadbeats. It will also force politicians to be impacted by either their good or bad public policy they foist upon the rest of us. Democrat reps in border states will have a front row seat to the crime and disruption caused by their idiotic border policies. Democrats out shopping, etc. will have the chance to be confronted by people that have lost their livelihoods and businesses because of their idiotic socialist economic policies. In this scenario, they will no longer be able to hide.

    Additionally, lavishly paid lobbyists will no longer be able to knock on one office after another in congressional office buildings to gain an audience to “influence” (aka bribe) Congress to pass laws that hurt tax-payers. In the proposed scenario, lobbyists will be forced to hop on planes and fly all over the fruited plain on order to wreak their havoc.

  13. I disagree. There are already too many yammer-heads in Congress.

    However, parts of the article are misleading. The Representatives in the House of Representatives don’t represent square miles, or land of any amount. They (are supposed to) represent people. Fewer people, fewer representatives.

    A related, common deceit in America today is that the population just grows by itself and that it must grow. But our population grows only due to immigration. We don’t make babies fast enough to grow our population. It’s immigration, in fact, mostly illegal immigration, that’s crowding our cities and doubling our population every few decades. If we had only legal immigration, our population would grow only a reasonable amount.

    By the way, the U.S. is already the third most populous country in the world. We can’t take everyone!

  14. If they worked more than half time we wouldn’t need any more representatives, they need to put in the hours like the rest of us. If you count the number of staff they have we are way over what’s necessary. They go to Washington to become rich the corruption is out of sight.

  15. We do not need more representatives, we need more representatives that have common sense, works for the good of everyone and is not entrenched like an Alabama tick and works for himself. Congress has lost its way and what we need is to replace the long time entrenched Politicians that are making it a career of been in Congress. Nothing is worse than someone that does not want to lose their position and only cares for himself.

  16. We should cut the membership in half. With instant communications available, (the few people who do call their congress person) The congress members should be paying a % of their health plan like most other employee’s. The pension plan s/b cancelled and start 401K plan, the Gov would match the members contribution amount up to 4% .
    The term limits s/b 6 yrs and out.

  17. I’ve read through all the comments here and I think all of you opposed to more representatives are missing the boat. First know that I would be opposed to the government getting bigger same as you. Unless it benefits the conservatives. Look at a map of the U.S. election results on a county by county basis. The country is 90% conservative except for the blue cities. Now imagine that instead of one representative for every 761,000 people, every representative was for 50,000 people. All of a sudden, all those red areas now represented by one or two congressmen elected by the blue cities could now be represented by conservative congressmen. Even all the states now considered liberal, California, Oregon, Washington on the west coast, New York etc on the east coast are mostly red conservative outside of the big cities in them. This would let all the conservative people in these liberal states have representation instead of being ignored and would shift the government representatives far to the right.
    I would encourage everybody here to check out TacticalCivics.com. This is a plan to do this by ratifying the first right in the Bill of Rights which was never ratified. It was started to be ratified by 11 states, but not finished. This sets the number of constituents each congressman has. Right now there’s no set number, but by ratifying it and setting the number to 50,000 per congressman, you would end up with about 6300 representatives. I know that sounds like a bad idea on the face of it, but look what they want to go along with it. Term limits of two terms and you are out without any pensions. Since there are far too many congressmen to meet in Washington, all representatives live and work in their own districts at their own expense. No staff members unless they want to hire them. Most would probably work out of their homes. having your congressman living in your district would mean they would be easy to approach and to talk to. The power in Washington would be severely curtailed. The lobbyists and power brokers would have a far tougher time influencing congress if they are evenly distributed across the country.
    Let’s use my state of Montana as an example. Right now we have one congressman for a little over 1 million people. If our congressmen had to represent 50,000 people, we would have 21 congressmen. As it is now, we (the conservatives) in the state can still elect republicans, but only by a small margin. We are almost outvoted by our liberal cities, Missoula, Butte, Helena and Bozeman. But if one congressman represents 50,000 people then the four liberal cities could get 6, 7 or maybe 8, letting the rest of the state elect 13,14 or 15 conservative members. And even the cities may not be able to consistently vote in liberals. And Montana is already a conservative state, the effect would be magnified in the liberal states. Give it some thought. My first reaction to larger government is the same as yours, but if the end result is to reclaim the government for the people and to get rid of the career politicians and get back to citizen representatives, then I’m willing to be for it.

    1. You are the one missing the point. Read the constitution. The states should be basically self governing.
      We don’t need a bunch of liberal nit wits that can’t find their way back from the bathroom making decisions for us that belong to the STATES! We need to get rid of this method of big governance and go back to the ways of the founding fathers! BIG GOVERNANCE NEVER BENEIFTS CONSERVATIVES.

  18. Comparing the USA with nations a mere fraction of our size is simply ignorant. I see you did not mention one whit, The fact the we have 50 INDIVIDUAL states!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And EACH of our states have a STATE LEGISLATURE, where its citizens ARE REPRESENTED in the fashion you seem to promote. WE also have a system of govt. that has worked so well, BECAUSE the Federal Govt, was designed to allow STATES to govern THEMSELVES!!!!!!!!!!! get an education and seek real understanding of stuff you have no business talking about.

  19. Really, you think we need a bigger congress so we can have more people in congress that don’t do their job to start with? We need more people giving themselves raises for doing the shit job their doing now? We need more people in congress to pass laws that work for the few and not the many? We need more people in congress to pass higher taxes for the working class people? While the congress we have now spends money like a drunk lotto winner? Really? We need more people in congress to do what? They are to busy to help me with my VA disability claim, even though I sent them all the doctor reports that said I was 100% disable, even though this happened to me while I was in the US Navy and honorably discharged and still nothing was done. But hell you guys in congress got your vacation in. I don’t know if I sound a little pissed off about the shit job you guys in congress are doing. Even though the tax dollars I send in pay your very high salary. I do hope this information I gave you is helpful. You guys may want to use it to get a good laugh in while you all get together for more tax payer parties. I do have a thought you might want to consider, why don’t you guys try doing a better job now. And the next time you want a pay raise why not ask the people you work for to see if you deserve a raise or not.

  20. I’ve said for years that each distract should be no more than 100, 000 citizens. yes, that would make for a very large House but it would also allow for the formation of cohesive communities making it more difficult for candidates to change their positions and faces depending on which group in their constituency they are facing… oh yes, and the pay should be reduced making the attractiveness to career politicians less.

  21. ROFL Do NOT screw the the Electoral College. We do NOT need MORE Idiots in congress. What we Really need is a much easier way to yank their sorry asses out of congress when they violate their Oath of Office.

  22. No more congress persons. Dissolve the house and the Senate. Defund them, one and all, Republicans, Democrats, and those who don’t know what party they represent. Send them all home packing. If they don’t want to go, tar and feathers – lots of it. Let’s take the money we save from paying their bloated salaries and build up our Police and Armed Forces. While we are working on this we can also cut the Presidents staff and the executive branch to no more than 25 people. Then we go to work on some of the do-nothing Federal Departments like the Justice Department, CIA, NSA, and all the others.

    I think we should put a farmer, a preacher, a truck driver, and maybe a small business owner in Washington and give them a shot at running the country.
    I was a Republican voter for many years, but no more. I am now an Independent.

    And by the way….. Don’t bother me with any more of your bullshit !!!

  23. By and large the House of Representatives if full of worthless ‘people’. Why would we want more worthless people?